The semifinals of the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee are underway, with 49 of the nation’s top young spellers competing for more than $37,000 in cash and prizes.
The semifinalists include three who made the finals last year. Three siblings of past champions also made it. Thirteen-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, is trying for the fifth and final time to equal the accomplishment of her sister, the 2009 winner.
For the first time, the bee has ranked the spellers based on their performance on two spelling and vocabulary tests. Thirteen-year-old Dev Jaiswal of Louisville, Mississippi, is the top-ranked speller. Vanya is tied for fifth. Last year’s third-place finisher, Gokul Venkatachalam, is tied for seventh. The top 12 who don’t miss a word in the semifinals will make the finals.