Wes readying to chase the trophy

National spelling champ in countdown mode for 2023 Scripps Spelling Bee

With the countdown on to the 2023 Scripps Spelling Bee later this month, national champion Wes Underwood is “excited”. And has been practicing and studying words daily to prepare for his Washington, D.C. appearance.

On May 28, Wes, 13, is expected to be among more than 200 spellers from around the world to arrive in the Washington, D.C. area, for Bee Week which will include more than three days of competition, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in the National Harbor, Maryland.

The competition will begin with preliminaries on Tuesday, May 30 and conclude with the finals on Thursday, June 1.

“I think [Wes] has worked hard, but still has a way to go,” said his mom Natalia Underwood. “He is very excited to represent our small community on such a big scale.”

She and Wes’ coach, Bevil Clarke, have been working diligently with the teen to get him as prepared as they possibly can for the end-of-the-month contest.

The eighth-grade student at Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School captured the national title with the correct spelling of “syntrophism”.

Wes, who has entered spelling competitions since first grade, won the national title in his final year of eligibility to advance past the district spelling competition to claim the national title over 23 other contestants.

The native of Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, in preparing for Scripps, also reached out to previous four-time national champion Roy Seligman, who has set an impressive bar at the competition as the only Bahamian to earn a semifinals berth, for tips and advice.

Roy’s advice to Wes included ensuring that he is tight on the Words of the Champions which contains a total of 4,000 words, including the 450-word School Spelling Bee Study List.

He also encouraged Wes to focus on knowing why each word is spelled the way it is spelled.

At the 93rd Scripps competition, in 2021, Roy was the first Bahamian to advance to the finals of the prestigious competition since The Bahamas began competing at Scripps in 1998.

Roy tied for fourth place with three other spellers. He had previously competed at Scripps in 2019 and tied for 51st place.

His impressive run took place one year after Scripps was canceled in 2020 due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. It was the first time the spelling bee had been canceled since World War II (1943-1945).

Outside of the competition, Wes said he is looking forward to visiting the National Mall and Smithsonian Museums while in Washington, D.C.

Wes will attempt to become the third island-nation state to claim the Scripps title.

Hugh Tosteson García was the first person from the Caribbean and outside of the continental United States to win the Scripps title. The Puerto Rican won the 48th Scripps title in 1975 with the correct spelling of “incisor”.

It would be 23 years before the feat was accomplished again in 1998 when Jamaican Jody-Anne Maxwell claimed the 71st Scripps title with the word “chiaroscurist”. She was also the first black winner.

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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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