90th Scripps National Spelling Bee expected to be toughest ever

- The 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee is expected to be the most difficult ever.

The competition began Tuesday morning at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center where nearly 300 elementary-and middle schoolers gathered for a written test.

Wednesday's preliminary rounds will whittle at the contestants until only about 50 are left.

Valerie Miller, spokeswoman for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, says that the competition begins each year in the classrooms. “We estimate about 11 million students participate in our program every year,” she said. Scripps provides the materials for students to advance through classroom and school competitions. “It advances eventually to the regional bee competition and the winners of that come here to Washington, D.C. to take part in our national finals. Then certainly after two days of on stage spelling, we hope to have one champion.

Margaret Isacson, a young contestant from Washington, D.C., says, at his point, preparation is not about studying. It’s about getting enough sleep and having a good breakfast.

Ryan Crawford, from Boston, takes a relaxed approach to the competition. “Just have fun. The experience is wonderful. Just coming here is basically winning,” he said. Crawford says studying different language patterns can help figure out words that he’s never heard of before. Isacson says she also studies word origins.

Last year, the spelling competition extended the final rounds and selected more difficult works in an attempt to avoid a third straight tie. But two spellers still ended up sharing the title.

This year, the top spellers will take another written test as a tiebreaker if it is necessary.

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