AP PHOTOS: Spelling bee brings out intense reactions

June 1, 2018
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In this combination of photos, students compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., on May 29-30, 2018. The contestants are, top row, from left: Isaac Phillips, from Ponchatoula, La., Brody Dicks, from Park City, Utah, and Natalia Lutz, from Huntington Station, N.Y.; middle row, from left: Shiva Yeshlur, from Rock Springs, Wyo., Sophia Clark, from White Marsh, Md., and Nicholas Lee, from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; bottom row, from left: Eleanor Tallman, Shria Halkoda, from Wadsworth, Ill., and Isabel Messina, from Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Competitors in the Scripps National Spelling Bee often struggle to contain their emotions as they react to obscure, complicated or tricked-up words that they may have never heard before.

Not knowing a word doesn’t always mean a speller will get it wrong — the savviest competitors can piece together a word by relying on their knowledge of roots and language patterns.

This year’s bee had a record 515 participants, 16 of whom advanced to Thursday night’s ESPN-televised finals. Spellers who’ve made deep runs at previous bees have loud cheering sections from friends they’ve made over years of spelling at the highest level.