At Monday’s opening ceremony for the 92nd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, 565 top competitors from across the U.S. and several other countries anxiously gathered to meet the bee’s pronouncers and judges and to learn more about what it might take to walk away Thursday night with the winner’s crown and accompanying $50,000 cash prize.
Listed among the diverse group of studious competitors were 2019 Washington Informer-sponsored spelling champions Alyssa Burgos and Teddy Palmore (spellers #96 and #33, respectively), who joined 45 of their D.C.-area peers on a huge Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center (at National Harbor, Md.) platform for the first of three days of intense competition.
Classmates from Teddy’s St. Alban’s School in northwest D.C. crowded around a TV where they eagerly watched him spell the first word, “reification,” defined as a complex idea for treating something immaterial like happiness, fear or evil as a material thing. His correct response garnered him a loud and supportive round of applause. Teddy took first place on March 9 in the D.C. Citywide Spelling Bee.
Alyssa, an eighth-grader at Holy Redeemer in College Park, Md., was the winner on March 20 of the Prince George’s County Spelling Bee. Like their fellow Scripps competitors, both Alyssa and Teddy received an all-expenses-paid stay at the Gaylord Hotel while representing their schools and hometowns in the national contest.
Also on Monday, Leilani Juliana Campos (speller #91) delivered the introduction to the bee, with contestants afterward watching a video depicting her journey studying words to her arrival at National Harbor.
Among speakers on Monday’s opening stage were several former champions, including 2015 co-champion Vanya Shivashankar, who told her attentive audience of spellers they should be proud of their accomplishments.
Deeya Patel (speller #566) shared her excitement about participating in the Bee for the second time. She commented that the opening ceremony made it feel like it was really happening.