8 Minnesotans finding out what all the buzz is about at National Spelling Bee

May 29, 2018 GMT

Eight young Minnesotans are among hundreds in the Washington, D.C., area for Tuesday’s kickoff of the 91st National Spelling Bee.

The seven alpha females (all eighth-graders) and one alpha male (a seventh-grader) repping Minnesota are: Laura Breed, Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan; Ainsley Boucher, Crookston School District; Chloe Holoman, Royalton Middle School; Ava Becken, Northfield Middle School; Briana Joseph, Fairmont Junior High School; Sarah Lahti, King of Kings Lutheran Middle School in Roseville; and Peter Clementson, Yinghua Academy charter school in Minneapolis.

Joseph and Boucher made the trip last year and were eliminated early on.

The 500-plus spellers started Tuesday with preliminaries consisting of a multiple-choice test with spelling words and vocabulary questions. Wednesday’s winnowing includes two rounds of onstage spelling challenges. ESPN3 has live coverage on both days.

Once the test scores and the spelling rounds are combined, competitors advance to Thursday’s finals, which are telecast live during the day on ESPN2 and that evening on ESPN.

More than 11 million students participated months ago in classroom and school bees before advancing to local bees that were coordinated by news media outlets, community organizations and universities.

The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. Minnesota has had one national champion, Sean Conley, of Shakopee, in 2001.

Last year’s champion was 12-year-old Ananya Vinay. The sixth-grader from Fresno, Calif., won by spelling “marocain,” a French word for dress fabric made of ribbed crêpe.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482