Scripps National Spelling Bee: Last-Minute Rundown of Competition

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMay 29, 2014

Eighth grade home-schooled student Jacob Williamson, 15, of Cape Coral, Fla., reacts after correctly spelling his word
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

The 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee is gearing up for Thursday night's championship round, and the nation will be tuning in to see which of the finalists can stay standing longer than the rest and win the crown.

A field of 281 contestants dwindled down to 50 in the preliminaries and has since dropped to just 12 finalists who will try to spell every word correctly and wait for the other 11 to bow out. A $30,000 cash prize is on the line for first place, but every finalist has already assured themselves a reward for getting this far.

There aren't many repeat performers from last year's finals, though, per the Associated Press:

Let's get right to it and break down the upcoming spelling bee.

When: Thursday, May 29 from 8-10 p.m. EDT

Where: Gaylord National; Oxon Hill, Maryland


Live Stream: ESPN3

Finals Preview

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

The 2014 Spelling Bee semifinals aired earlier Thursday, and some awesome moments made sure that the prime-time finals will be a hit.

Fortunately for spectators tuning in to Thursday's event, the confusing portion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee—vocabulary tests, computerized tests, etc.—is out of the way. 

In Thursday's finals, it's a single-elimination round one after another. Whoever is left standing in the end is the champion.

Of course, it's not that simple in that there's a limitation set for a potential championship duel. The official rules from the Scripps National Spelling Bee website break it down:

At the beginning of any round in which either two or three spellers remain, the pronouncer will move to the 25-word championship section of the word list. If a champion does not emerge in the course of administering these final 25 words, the remaining spellers will be declared co-champions. In the event that a round beginning with more than either two or three spellers ends with only one speller to begin the next and perhaps final round, the pronouncer will not move to the championship section at that point in the competition.

It's wise to have a system in place to award any two—or even three—spellers who get on a roll for dozens of words, but in 86 years of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, there hasn't been one year of co-champions. So don't get your hopes up for that scenario to unfold. 

There are enough standouts in the field to make it happen, though, as the National Spelling Bee Twitter account tweeted a link of the 12 finalists and offered some local perspective:

A lot is on the line for these contestants, too. While all of them have secured at least a $1,500 cash prize for making the finals, the prize money increases to $2,000 for sixth place and on up as the below table shows:

2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee Prizes
12th-7th Place$1,500
6th Place$2,000
5th Place$2,500
4th Place$3,000
3rd Place$7,500
2nd Place$12,500

On top of these cash prizes, the finalists also receive a medal for making the finals as well as other gifts awarded to all contestants

The finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee never disappoint. To make it this far in the field of 281 takes an awful lot of skill and even more grit and determination, so none of these 12 will go down without some sort of fight.

On top of the competitive spirit that comes with the event, spectators will be tuning in to see just how badly a bunch of kids could embarrass them by spelling words the average person couldn't even define.