After a Covid-19 hiatus in 2020, the Scripps National Spelling Bee returns this year. In 2019, the last year the competition was held, eight spellers were crowned co-champions, including seven
Indian Americans. Photo credit: Scripps National Spelling Bee
The 2021 competition kicks off June 12 with virtual preliminaries broadcast live on ESPN3.
At least 70 Indian American kids are among 209 spellers preparing to showcase their skills as the Scripps National Spelling Bee prepares to make its return to TV screens across the country beginning June 12.
In the show’s first-ever hybrid virtual and in-person competition, the spellers earned their spots through local and regional bees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.
The final rounds of this year’s Bee will be hosted in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, on July 8, according to a Bee press release.
America’s largest and longest-running educational program has been dominated for a dozen years by Indian Americans with seven of the eight winners of the last competition in 2019 being of Indian descent.
READ: On-air tests for 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee spellers (April 20, 2021)
Indian Americans among top 100 spellers this year include: Sage Sawhney, 13, Wilmington, Delaware; Pritikaa Biswas, 14, Indianapolis, Indiana; Ishan Ramrakhiani, 13, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Sanya Nadeem, 12, Lynn, Massachusetts; Harini Murali, 9, Neptune, New Jersey; Ananya Mandrekar, 11, Maplewood, New Jersey; Rishidharan Jayakumar, 12, Charlotte, North Carolina; Keerthana Samuel,12, Charleston, South Carolina; Dev Shah, 12, Auburndale, Florida; Shayari Shanti, 12, Lafayette, Indiana; Alesya Rathinasamy, 14, Muncie, Indiana; Charan Bala, 13, Columbia, Maryland; Ananya Gautam, 14, Bethesda, Maryland; Aadhavan Veerendra, 11, Manchester, New Hampshire; Mujtaba Raja, 13, Jersey City, New Jersey; Ayushi Sainath, 13, Batavia, New York; Joseph Rajaratnam, 9, Corning, New York; Bhavana Madini, 12, New York, New York; Sahana Sampath, 11, Albany, New York; Sreethan Gajula, 14 , Charlotte, North Carolina; Srinidhi Rao, 11, Cincinnati, Ohio; Atharv Narvekar, 12, Princeton, New Jersey; Rajshekhar Basu Sarkar, 12, Toledo, Ohio; Tara Rakesh, 12, Cincinnati, Ohio; Sahana Srikanth, 12, Cincinnati, Ohio; Pranav Anandh, 12, Morton, Pennsylvania; Sindura Sridhar, 14, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Shriya Gangineni, 13, Vermillion, South Dakota; Alisha Chandra, 13, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Akshita Balaji, 14, Merrifield, Virginia; Ashrita Gandhari, 14, Leesburg, Virginia; Ananya Nanduru, 13, Richmond, Virginia; Vinu Chandrasekar, 12, Charleston, West Virginia; Dhilan Patel, 11, Birmingham, Alabama; Avani Joshi, 13, Loves Park, Illinois.
The finals, featuring 10-12 accomplished spellers, will be broadcast live in primetime on ESPN2.
Other highlights of this year’s program:
Four countries are participating in addition to the US: the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana and Japan.
The national finalists range in age from 9 to 15.
A total of 47 national finalists have previous experience competing in the national finals, and 16 have siblings who are former national competitors.
The champion will receive a $50,000 cash prize.
For the first time, the Bee will invite audiences to view special events for finalists including the opening ceremony, a presentation from dictionary partner Merriam-Webster, pre-shows for the semifinals and finals, the awards ceremony and more.
These speller engagement elements will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube, and more information will be available at spellingbee.com.
Other speller engagement elements this year include a digital experience hub, which features videos, gaming elements and virtual social events for spellers to connect and celebrate key achievements throughout their journeys within this year’s virtual environment.
Local sponsoring organizations enrolled in the Bee’s year-round educational program held regional competitions in February and March to identify national competitors.
This year, due to the global pandemic, programs were allowed to conduct their local and regional bees virtually or through the Bee’s proprietary online testing platform.
The platform, developed to provide educators and other program sponsors with an alternate and easily accessible mechanism to administer testing, has allowed local and regional bees greater flexibility to participate while complying with local pandemic response requirements, the Bee said.
“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is back, and with it, the tradition of watching a tremendous group of spellers take on the dictionary,” said Dr. J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Bee.
“We look forward to celebrating our 209 national finalists and all they’ve accomplished over the last year. To our audiences watching at home: tune in – on your mobile devices, laptops or televisions – and help us cheer on these truly exceptional young scholars.”
The official 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee live broadcast follows this schedule (all times Eastern):
Preliminaries: Saturday, June 12, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on ESPN3
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, June 15, noon-6 p.m. on ESPN3
Semifinals: Sunday, June 27, 7-11 p.m. on ESPN2 (Play Along version on ESPNU)
Finals: Thursday, July 8, 8-10 p.m. on ESPN2 (Play Along version on ESPNU)