This year, 281 spellers will converge from eight countries: the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Competitors hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.
The competition begins today (Tuesday) at National Harbor in Maryland, just across the Potomac from Alexandria. The first day of competition is Tuesday, but spellers will take to the stage for the first time the following day. ESPN will broadcast the Championship Finals from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday.
For the 21st consecutive year, ESPN and its family of channels will provide coverage of the Bee with hosts Chris McKendry, Paul Loeffler and Kaylee Hartung. This includes a play-along version where viewers can test their spelling mettle along with the competitors.
The schedule is:
- Preliminaries on Wednesday, May 28, from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. EDT (watch live; play along).
- Preliminaries on Wednesday, May 28, from 1:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. EDT. ESPN3 will broadcast the announcement of semifinalists immediately following the conclusion of Round Three (watch live; play along).
- Semifinals on Thursday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT. ESPN2 will broadcast the announcement of championship finalists immediately following the conclusion of Round Six (watch live; play along).
- Championship Finals broadcast live on ESPN on Thursday, May 29 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT (watch live; play along).
Jae is no stranger to the spelling bee. He was its youngest contestant in 2012.
Jae won the Fairfax County spelling bee in March for the third straight year, according to The Fairfax Times.
Here's more about Jae, aka Speller #262, from his official biography released by Scripps:
"Jae is an enormous baseball fan. He plays Little League, and he and his father travel around the country to see minor league baseball games. They have been to 11 games so far, as well as to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. During his travels, he also collects baseball hats and currently has more than 70. Interestingly, the word sabermetrics — the statistical study of baseball — was one of his words in two of his last five county spelling bees. In addition to baseball, Jae is dedicated to his academics; he is a Davidson Institute Young Scholar and recently received high honors at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. Jae previously competed in the 2012 and 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bees, tying for 22nd place in 2012."
Virginia has seen two students win the whole shebang: In 1984, Daniel Greenblatt of Leesburg won with the word "luge." In 1992, Amanda Goad of Richmond won the contest with the word "lyceum." You can find a list of all of the champions and their winning words here. This year, Virginia is sending 14 students in all to the spelling bee. In addition to Jae, there is also a student from Ashburn and another from Fredericksburg competing from the Northern Virginia area.
Here's what the champion will take home this year:
From Scripps, a $30,000 cash prize and the Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy
From Merriam-Webster, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a complete reference library
From Encyclopædia Britannica, $1,200 of reference works including the Britannica Global Edition, 1768 Encyclopædia Britannica Replica Set Deluxe Edition, 3-year membership to Britannica Online Premium and Britannica World Atlas
The spelling bee is the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company and local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.