In anticipation of yet another day of reciting words and patterns visualized in their heads or scribbled in their hands with their fingers, many of the 42 Scripps National Spelling Bee finalists wasted little time departing the ballroom stage Wednesday at the end of Round 3 at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in preparation of Thursday’s grand finale.
If they spell every word correctly, one of them — maybe two if there’s a tie — will be declared the 2018 winner.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep [Wednesday night],” 13-year-old Nilla Rajan of Chillicothe, Ohio, excitedly confessed minutes after departing the huge stage she’d spent a lot of time on since arriving two days earlier at the National Harbor resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
In addition to making it to Round 3, Nilla, who is participating for the second time in the annual competition, walked off the stage with one of the 42 shiny gold medals that secured her place in competing Thursday’s spell-offs.
Nilla, who correctly spelled “resorb” (as in to absorb something again) to get the round, said she “really wasn’t that nervous,” having spent two days correctly spelling word after word before the crowds of parents, siblings, spelling coaches and other well-wishers.
“I just think that maybe it was the balance of the preliminaries that many of the words were simple everyday words which made it easier to spell them,” Nilla, a first-time finalist in the historic event, said when asked if she thought words posed like “Zumba,” “frigid” and “savant” were too casual.
The bee, which began Tuesday with 514 spellers, has drawn the largest number of contestants in its history. The spellers — many of middle-school age — are from across the country and around the world.
However, by the time Round 3 rolled around, the roster had dwindled to 322 contestants.
The 41 spellers who advanced to the finals had the most points in the preliminaries.
The bee will be broadcast Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on ESPN2 and from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30m p.m. on ESPN.