With four rounds of the finals complete, 10 spellers remain, as the primetime portion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will commence this evening at 8 Eastern.
Two spellers are returning to the primetime portion of the Bee; Sylvie Lamontagne of Lakewood, Colo., and Snehaa Ganesh Kumar of Sacramento, Calif. Sylvie finished ninth in last year’s Bee, and Snehaa finished fourth in 2015.
The Spelling Bee began with 284 participants on Tuesday. All spellers participated in a written exam on Tuesday, and Round 2 of spelling on Wednesday. After the conclusion of Round 3, 45 finalists were selected out of 171 who correctly spelled both words in Rounds 2 and 3 based on their exam scores.
Nicola Ferguson, 13, from Sunrise Middle School in Scottsdale spelled "psyllium" incorrectly in the first round of the finals on Thursday.
While the two international finalists survived Round 4, 24 spellers did not, leaving 21 left for Round 5. Among those axed in Round 4 was Tejas Muthusamy, who finished seventh last year.
Afua Ansah, the first finalist ever from Ghana, and Chaunte Blackwood were subsequently eliminated in Round 5.
The field whittled to 10 by the end of Round 7. Joining Sylvie and Snehaa is Cooper Komatsu, a 13-year-old from Los Angeles. Cooper nearly made the primetime portion of the Bee in 2015, but was among a group cut from the Bee due to an exam.
The second written exam was eliminated from the Bee this year, putting more emphasis on spelling correctly on stage.
Cooper wowed the audience by spelling two words without any assistance from Bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly.
“Yeah, got it, got it,” Cooper said about those two words. “It is going to be even bigger and it is going to be hard but words I enjoy a lot. All of the spellers in this Bee are really amazing. They all won their regional bees, so they’re good spellers.”
Sylvie’s appearance on primetime was brief last year as she missed her first word. Sylvie hopes a year of practice will allow her to go for the Bee’s top prize of $40,000.
“Hopefully I’ll make it farther this time,” Sylvie said.
While the top prize is $40,000, those who come up just short will still earn a nice payday. The second-place finisher earns $30,000, third-place gets $20,000, fourth-place takes home $10,000 and fifth-place receives $5,000.