On the back porch of her family home in Erwin, North Carolina, Lila Rechel suits up and gets ready to check out what's buzzing in the backyard.
A quick check of the hive and then it's back to studying for this budding beekeeper, as she gets ready for this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.
"I think the spelling bee came first," she said, when asked if spelling or beekeeping started first. "We got bees a couple of years ago and they've been doing pretty well ever since."
As for her study methods: "We have a word list and I like just sitting on the couch or on my bed and reading that over," Lila said. "Or sometimes I'll go on the porch swing and look at the dictionary online."
The 13-year-old said she is still stunned she made it this far.
"It is crazy. I never imagined!" Lila said.
She laughed when asked about what word still gives her trouble.
"The word 'icy.' Yes!" she said. "I just usually think it's spelled 'i-c-e-y.' It's just 'i-c-y.'"
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Nearly 1,800 miles away, Tazbah Spruhan of Fort Defiance, Arizona, said she is ready for the trip to the bee.
"The fact that I'm going, I'm just grateful for that," she said.
Tazbah lives on the Navajo Nation and said she understands the importance of making it to the national competition.
"The Navajo Nation doesn't really have a lot of representation and being able to be someone who does represent it, it makes me feel proud," she said.
When she takes the stage at the bee, Tazbah said she already knows exactly what she's going to wear: traditional Navajo clothing.
"When people say 'dress up,' it's not like you wear dresses — you wear Navajo clothes," she said. "So, I think it's just something I've always known I was going to do."
The bee's new director, Corrie Loeffler, understands exactly what all the spellers are going through. She is a former bee competitor herself.
"When I was a speller, this week really was the best week of the year for me," she said. "It was so much fun."
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Loeffler said that beyond what happens on stage, she hopes all the spellers coming in enjoy the experience and come away with new friends.
"That's what I'm focused on for these kids — building that fun, memorable, exciting, connecting experience," she said.
That is something the spellers say they are looking forward to doing, too.
"I'm very excited!" Lila said.
You can watch a special broadcast of the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals on Wednesday, May 31 at 8 p.m. EDT, on the Ion and Bounce channels, as well as streaming on the Bee's website.
Tune into those same channels for the live finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, June 1, at 8 p.m. EDT.
Scripps News is a subsidiary of the E.W. Scripps Company, which also runs the Bee on a not-for-profit basis.
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