The Agony and the Ecstasy of the National Spelling Bee

The Agony and the Ecstasy of the National Spelling Bee

The most skillful young spellers in the U.S. came together for the 86th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Thursday. From utter anguish to sheer joy, see the faces of determination.

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The most skillful young spellers in the U.S. came together for the 86th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Thursday. Eleven finalists took the stage for the two-and-a-half-hour spell-a-thon, advancing from a pool of 281 in a fierce competition for $30,000 in cash and prizes and the elation of a nation obsessed with the bee. Here, Amber Born, 14 of Marblehead, Massachusetts, reacts after spelling the word “malacophilous” correctly during the semifinal round.

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Caleb Miller, 13, of Calhoun, Louisiana, cast his head back after incorrectly spelling “cyanope.” Christopher O'Connor, 13, of Tucson incorrectly spells “pultaceous.” Mary Skirvin, 13, of Nashville, Indiana, incorrectly spells “laureation.”

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Vismaya Kharkar, 14, of Bountiful, Utah, covers her face as she concentrates on her word “temenos” during the final round.

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Joseph Delamerced, 13, of Cincinnati, Ohio, spells “malleolus.” Syamantak Payra, 14, of Bountiful spells “stultiloquence.” Alia Abiad, 13, of Western Springs, Illinois, spells “hypnopompic.”

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Jonathan Caldwell, 13, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, waits for his turn during the semifinal round.

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Caldwell spells “persiflage.” Kuvam Shahane, 13, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, spells “griseous.” Christal Schermeister, 13, of Pembroke Pines, Florida, spells “gelastic.”

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Margaret Flaherty Peterson, 13, of Granger, Indiana, sits alone onstage after she was not chosen to advance to the final round.

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Emily Keaton, 14, of Pikeville, Kentucky, spells “encephalitis.” Emma Greenlee, 14, of Aurora, Minnesota, spells “joculator.” Ryan Devanandan, 13, of Albany, New York, spells “aporia.”

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Nadar Chandran and wife Sumita Chandran react after their daughter Nikitha Chandran, 13, of Valrico, Florida, spells the word “peristalith” correctly during the semifinal round. 

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Sriram Hathwar, 13 of Painted Post, New York, reaches out to shake hands with Syamantak Payra, 12, of Friendswood, Texas, as he high-fives Kharkar. Chetan Reddy, 13, of Plano, Texas, yellow shirt, and Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, New York, center, watch after they learned that they will advance to the final round.

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Katharine Wang, 11, of Beijing gathers herself before the start of the semifinal round. Seated by Wang are Eva Kitlen of Niwot, Colorado, to her left, and Audrey Bantug, 13, of San Ramon, California.

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Mahankali watches confetti fall after he won the bee.

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Mahankali is congratulated by his family.

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Mahankali holds the championship trophy after he won by spelling the word “knaidel” correctly.