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2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee: Record number of spellers, how to watch and more

Posted at 10:31 AM, May 21, 2019

CINCINNATI — More spellers than ever are converging on the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, May 26-31. A total of 565 participants will compete for the largest cash prize in Bee history.

The Bee by the numbers:

  • 271 spellers from sponsored regions.
  • 294 spellers through RSVBee, the invitational program launched by the Bee in 2017 to provide more opportunities for students to compete in the national finals.
  • $50,000 cash prize for the Champion.
  • An estimated 11 million students in the Bee’s program 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.
  • Seven additional participating countries — the Bahamas, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

The spellers range in age from 7 to 15. There are nine sets of siblings competing, including two sets of twins – one identical. A total of 163 spellers have previous experience competing in the national finals.

Locally sponsored programs held regional competitions in February and March. In early April, RSVBee applicants accepted invitations to join the regional winners at the national finals. To qualify for RSVBee, spellers had to win their school spelling bee or be a former national finalist and attend a school enrolled in the Bee program. Parents applied on behalf of their child and paid a $1,500 participation fee to accept an invitation. The 2018 Champion Karthik Nemmani, from McKinney, Texas, was an RSVBee participant.

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a time-honored tradition and a true piece of Americana,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Bee. “In our program’s nine-decades-long history, we have inspired millions of students to improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage. All spellers can stand proud knowing they gave their very best, and they will reap the benefits of participation, which include confidence and perseverance.”

How to watch:
For the 26th consecutive year, ESPN and its family of channels will provide coverage of the Bee. The broadcast/livestream of onstage spelling follows this schedule (all times EST):
Tuesday, May 28:

  • Round Two and the beginning of Round Three runs from 9:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3 and the ESPN App).

Wednesday, May 29:

  • Round Three continues from 8 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3 and the ESPN App).
  • The announcement of Finalists is at about 4:45 p.m. (ESPN3 and the ESPN App).

Thursday, May 30:

  • The Finals begin at 10 a.m. and run until about 2 p.m. (watch live on ESPN2; livestream on the ESPN App and play along on ESPNU).
  • After a break, the primetime Finals continue from 8:30-10:30 p.m. (watch live on ESPN; livestream on the ESPN App and play along on ESPNU).

The prizes for the champion include:

  • $50,000 cash prize.

Engraved Scripps Cup trophy, designed exclusively for the Bee by Rookwood Pottery Company in Cincinnati.

  • $2,500 cash prize and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster.
  • Reference works and three-year online membership from Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Trip to New York City to appear on “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” which airs weekday mornings in national syndication.
  • Trip to Hollywood to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” which airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. Eastern/10:35 p.m. Central (pending availability).

The competition takes place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, just outside of Washington, D.C.