Bahamas National Spelling Bee champion Roy Seligman was looking forward to a second consecutive run at the Scripps National Spelling Bee title. That won’t happen as the 93rd national finals that were scheduled for May have officially been canceled due to the ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and uncertainty around when public gatherings will be possible or advisable.
Scripps officials determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020.
The decision to cancel the 2020 bee comes following an announcement on March 20 that it was suspending the national finals and hoped to reschedule.
While Seligman, 11, is understanding of the global public health issues with the world grappling to contain the spread of COVID-19, he said he was still “sad and somewhat disappointed” the bee was first postponed on March 20, and then officially canceled on April 21.
“I was ready for May’s competition,” said the Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) student. “I had a daily schedule that involved me getting up early in the morning and studying various lists. I built in time throughout the day to explore new words and add to my vocabulary. Reviewing, learning and practicing words from around the world has become a part of my everyday life.”
This year marks the only time since World War II (1943-1945) that the bee has canceled the national finals since the program’s inception in 1925.
The first cases of coronavirus were first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The United States confirmed its first case on January 21. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic on January 30.
The Bahamas had 80 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths and 792 people in quarantine as of yesterday. Worldwide, there were 3,110,219 confirmed cases with 216,808 deaths.
The 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021, in National Harbor, Maryland.
“Our first priority has to be the health and well-being of our spellers and their families and the hundreds of staff and spectators that come together for Bee Week,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, on their website.
Students who have advanced beyond the eighth grade are not eligible to participate in the spelling bee program.
“Our hearts go out to the spellers who won’t get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make,” said Kimble. “They are now part of a widely expanding group of children and adults who are missing out on opportunities due to the coronavirus.”
Prior to the official cancelation, Seligman said he had worked consistently and felt he would have been ready for this year’s competition, whether it was held in May or rescheduled for later in the year. He said extra time to prepare is always welcomed.
“Studying for the competition is a continuous process which is never fully complete. Almost infinite in number, there are always new words to learn and engage with. I was certainly more prepared than I was my first time in Washington,” he said.
Seligman described Scripps as an amazing experience and said he had been looking forward to this year’s competition.
“I was more comfortable with the process this time around and I had developed new strategies and personal learning goals to help me stay focused during the preparation time. My parents and coach allowed me to drive this process in many ways and I took greater responsibility for it. My commitment to the bee is unwavering because it represents a very significant part of my history.”
Prior to the Scripps cancelation, he had still been training for the bee using the routines set in place before the postponement. But, without a deadline, he said his training was much less intense than before.
“I’m now studying entirely out of interest and for enjoyment.”
But he said he would definitely continue to read a lot and add to his word lists, and use online resources and games.
“My parents and coach are not leading any sessions at this time – online or otherwise. Instead, I am continuing the learning process on my own because spelling and exploring words is a genuine interest at this time.”
With his 2019 win, Seligman became the first LCIS student to win the national title. He followed that up with a second win this year.
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