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4 students set to represent Kansas City in 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee

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Posted at 2:41 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-12 00:03:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several local spellers are set to compete in the virtual rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

A few changes have been implemented for the 96th edition of the Spelling Bee, which was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, the first several rounds of the national competition will be virtual. There will also be a vocabulary and speed-round - in hopes of naming a single champion.

The bee had co-champions from 2014-16, and the 2019 bee ended in an eight-way tie.

In this year's lightning round, spellers will have 90 seconds to correctly spell as many words as possible.

The rapid-fire tiebreaker will only be used if the bee gets toward the end of its allotted time and can't crown a single winner in the traditional way.

Four Kansas City-area spellers have qualified for the national preliminary rounds, Drew Clawson, 13, Emaan Arshad, 14 , Garrett Li, 13, and Mac Northcraft, 11.

Drew, of Gladstone, says he's an actor and singer and doesn't get much stage fright, but showing he belongs is important,

"Just to go beat out my previous self and anything on here is just gravy," Drew said.

Getting the change to compete in this year's bee is great for Emann, of Kansas City, Missouri, though she wouldn't mind if it was all in person.

"It just makes me feel more confident in person, whereas online I'm just doing it on my desk and I feel a little less confident and worry about what's going to happen," she said.

Each competitor has their own way of preparing, but there's a spelling bee app that has spelling and vocabulary quizzes you can use.

Others read the dictionary or write down words, use flash cards and study with family members.

Another local speller, Garrett Li, of Olathe, says preparing is fun and helps make his brain stronger. He's doing the best he can, but wasn't originally shooting for the nationals.

"I wasn't thinking about what was on the road ahead and I'm still kind of surprised and I'm also kinda stressed out," he said.

The youngest of the four spellers in our area another to qualify for nationals is 11 year-old Mac Northcraft of Peculiar, Missouri.

The preliminary rounds begin Saturday, June 12 and air live on ESPN3. The quarterfinals will also be live on Tuesday, June 15, also on ESPN3. The semifinals will be held Sunday, June 27 on ESPN2/ESPNU.

The finals will bring the last 10-12 spellers together for in-person competition on July 8 at the ESPN campus in Florida.

It will be broadcast live in primetime on ESPN2.