We're here in Orlando, Florida for the televised return of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. Eleven kids are competing against each other — and the dictionary — to win the first bee held since 2019.
Ten-year-old spelling finalist Vivinsha Veduru: "I've been a competitive speller since third grade."
Twelve-year-old spelling finalist Vihaan Sibal: "I started competing in spelling bees when I was in second grade."
Fourteen-year-old finalist Zaila Avant-Garde: "If I had gotten my root vagaries right, I would have made it to the semifinals on my first try, but I didn't. And so I've been studying basically ever since."
Last year's Spelling Bee was canceled because of the pandemic — marking the first cancellation of the event since World War II.
J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee: "Teachers have had to adjust, families have had to adjust, educational systems. And likewise, the bee's adjusted in the past year to move into a virtual competition from up until the actual finals."
This year, it's a much quieter bee with only eleven kids competing in-person for the final round at ESPN's Wide World of Sports — also known for the NBA Bubble.
Avant-Garde: "I feel like I'm in a surreal dream, like this whole time I've been here."
The original 209 national finalists competed virtually throughout June, so past years' Bee Week events, audiences and crowds are giving way to a smaller competition.
Twelve-year-old finalist Roy Seligman: "There's a lot of work that I've put into this, so I'm really excited to be here."
Twelve-year-old finalist Dhroov Bharatia: "I'm really grateful for the opportunity to showcase my talents and my hard work that I've done so far."
This year's finale — a culmination of a year's worth of practice and local competitions — takes place this Thursday, July 8.
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