Buzz over spelling bee growing

Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
March 4, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Technically speaking, the Jackson County Spelling Bee is still happening. Its two competitors are just taking a long break.

On Feb. 22, Kush Sharma, Northeast resident and seventh-grader at Frontier School of Innovation in Kansas City, and his competitor Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader at Highland Park Elementary School in Lee’s Summit, competed for 66 rounds before a stoppage was called. This weekend, the two will resume the Jackson County Spelling Bee at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 8, in the Helzberg Auditorium at the Kansas City Public Library’s central branch, 14 W. 10th St.

The winner will advance to the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. Last year’s spelling bee only went 21 rounds.

According to a press release from Courtney Lewis, media relations for the Kansas City Library, the two finalists went head to head for 47 rounds from a list of words provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee, then through an additional 20 words picked from Merriam Webster’s 11th-edition dictionary. Mary Olive Thompson, the Library’s outreach manager and co-coordinator of the championship bee, said new words will be drawn from a separate Scripps list and from Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.

The drawn-out spelling bee has drawn national attention, with coverage by such media outlets as ABC’s Good Morning America and National Public Radio to Time magazine, The Huffington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and the New York Daily News. Lewis said the library is committed to providing the best environment for the children during this “unprecedented media coverage.”

“National media is planning a lot of coverage and that was unexpected,” Lewis said. “Here at the library, we’re doing our best to make sure the kids and the competition remain a top priority. It’s taken on a life of its own but the kids are having fun with it.”

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