The bee began Tuesday morning with a written test and wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with all 519 spellers facing down words on stage for round two. Those who missed a word during the second round were eliminated. Of the 24 Ohioans who began the day, 19 made it to day two.
They include Maggie Sheridan, 14, of Mansfield; Akhil Madala, 11, of Dublin and Aiden Clerico, 14, of West Jefferson. George and Sheridan are here for their second year as is Grace McKeegan, 14, of Steubenville, who also survived to make it to round three.
The group is bigger – only 291 participated last year – in part because of a new program aimed at increasing competitors’ access to the national bee. Spellers will take the stage Wednesday for round three; after that, the score of the first-round written test will be compiled with the 50 top performers on the test advancing to Thursday’s finals.
Spellers range in age from 8 to 15; they come not only from the United States but from South Korea, Jamaica, Scotland, Japan and Italy, among other nations.
The winner of the bee will receive a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved trophy from Scripps; a $2,500 cash prize and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster and a Pizza Hut pizza party for the champion’s school, as well as have the opportunity to appear on Live with Kelly and Ryan and on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
George is wrapping up an impressive streak: He was valedictorian of his graduating class at Holy Angels School in Sidney and he was recently nominated for a national science fair.
He said both the written test and the words are tougher this year — most likely because of the larger pool of competitors – but his preparation has remained largely unchanged.
His work ethic has impressed his parents, Glory George and George Ramayya, who say they watch their son and wonder if they can echo his work ethic.
Spelling bees, Glory George said, have taught their son “about setting a goal and achieving it” as well as learning “the process to attain the goal.”
Joshua said he’s come to appreciate spelling.
“Some people say spelling isn’t worth the time,” he said. “It’s definitely worth the time. You learn more than just about words.
“I’m happy I took up spelling.”
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