Scripps Spelling Bee makes a return

Roy Seligman, two-time national champion, has already begun working his way through competition to position himself to be the Bahamian champion

Unlike Roy Seligman last year, whoever wins this year’s National Spelling Bee can actually look forward to representing The Bahamas at the Scripps National Bee, which returns this year, after being canceled due to the pandemic.

The Scripps National Bee returns this year with top spellers from across the United States and the globe gathering near Orlando, Florida, on July 8, to compete in the nationally televised event.

The final rounds of this year’s Bee will be hosted in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. The finals, featuring 10 to 12 accomplished spellers, will be broadcast live in primetime on ESPN2.

The finalists who will travel to the Orlando area will have earned the right to compete in the finals by advancing through three levels of competition: the preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal segments. In past years, those three rounds were held over one week – Bee Week. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the preliminaries, quarterfinals and semifinals will be held virtually in the weeks leading up to the July 8 finals and will be broadcast live on ESPN platforms.

The semifinals are slated for June 27, and dates for the earlier virtual rounds of the competition will be announced this spring.

“Since its beginnings nearly 100 years ago, the Scripps National Spelling Bee and its spellers have inspired audiences across the globe with a compelling combination of academic excellence and engaging entertainment,” said Adam Symson, president and chief executive officer of The E.W. Scripps Company. “Now, as the world continues to adapt to an ongoing pandemic, Scripps is committed to reimagining the beloved competition in a way that safely allows our exceptional spellers to continue this iconic tradition on the national stage.”

If Seligman, a seventh-grade student at Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) has anything to say about it – he will be the Bahamian representative later this year, considering COVID-19 literally forced the world to grind to a halt last year with events being canceled left and right, including Scripps.

“I know that canceling the bee last year was the right thing for Scripps to do, but I still feel disappointed,” said Seligman. “[But] I’m excited that Scripps has found a way to hold the bee safely this year.”

Seligman, who has won the Bahamas National Spelling Bee for the past two years, said he would be honored to have another opportunity to represent the country. He has already begun working his way through the levels of competition to position himself to be the Bahamian champion.

Seligman won the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) Spelling Bee last month, and along with the second and third place runners-up, will represent the BAISS in the Bahamas Spelling Bee on March 21, according to LCIS school officials.

The pre-teen has not been resting on his laurels and has been studying the 4,000 words of champions list provided by Scripps, along with lists of his own. He studies roots, language patterns and definitions as he enjoys the process and is motivated, working for at least three hours a day and longer on non-school days.

He has even networked with former national bee winners, including the 2019 Octochamps with whom he shares strategies, explores new words and participates in online competitions.

David Mindorff, LCIS principal, described Roy as a talented student.

“He has a calm and confident demeanor. This gives you the impression that he is going to win from the first round. We are rooting for him for the nationals,” said Mindorff.

The decision to limit the in-person portion of the competition to no more than 12 spellers was made in consideration of the health and safety of participants, their families and everyone involved in the event’s production as the world continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The in-person portion of the competition at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney will follow protocols based on guidance from health authorities, including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for social distancing and masking.

Scripps is said to also be reviewing its COVID-19-related health and safety protocol with medical experts at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to help facilitate a safe experience for all.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

With his 2019 win, Seligman was the first LCIS student to win the national title, which he followed up with a second win in 2020.

Seligman remains eligible to participate in Scripps. Students who have advanced beyond the eighth grade are not eligible to participate in the spelling bee program.

Last year, Seligman told The Nassau Guardian that he was understanding of the global public health issues the world grappled with to contain the spread of COVID-19, but that he was still disappointed the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee had to be canceled.

Last year marked the only time since World War II (1943-1945) that the Bee had canceled the national finals since the program’s inception in 1925.

The first cases of coronavirus were initially 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 identified its first case on March 15, 2020.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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