Cedarville girl among 209 to begin national spelling bee Saturday

Sophia Lopez, a seventh-grader at Cedarville Middle School, has qualified for the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Sophia Lopez, a seventh-grader at Cedarville Middle School, has qualified for the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

After a COVID-related cancellation in 2020, the Scripps National Spelling Bee returns this year in a different form, as 209 spellers, including one from the Dayton area, begin the preliminaries this weekend.

Saturday’s preliminaries, Tuesday’s quarterfinals and the June 27 semifinals will be done in a virtual format, with the top 10-12 spellers advancing to the in-person finals June 8 in Orlando, Fla.

ExploreMeet the spellers: Photos, bios of national finalists

Sophia Lopez, a Cedarville Middle School seventh-grader, will represent the Dayton area in the national Bee. She also advanced to that level in 2019.

Sophia’s bio from Bee officials says she plays the violin, enjoys hanging out with her cats, eating chocolate, being with friends and reading — both the Hunger Games and Divergent series, plus her favorite novel, Echo. She’s involved in theater and the Springfield Youth Symphony, and she likes running and swimming.

Spellers in the national Bee advanced through school, community, regional and sometimes statewide spelling bees. Contestants represented all 50 states plus U.S. territories.

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In past years, the 209 spellers who advanced all would have attended the early rounds in person – an event called Bee Week — but that was adjusted due to lingering COVID concerns.

Saturday’s preliminaries run from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., while Tuesday’s quarterfinals go from noon to 6 p.m. Both will be streamed on the ESPN3 digital network. On Saturday, contestants will have to spell two words correctly and answer a “word meaning” question correctly to advance to the quarterfinals.

The 209 national finalists range in age from 9 to 15, and 47 of them have previous experience competing in the national finals. Sixteen have siblings who are former national competitors. This year, spellers from the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana and Japan will also participate in the finals.

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“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is back, and with it, the tradition of watching a tremendous group of spellers take on the dictionary,” said Dr. J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Bee. “To our audiences watching at home: tune in – on your mobile devices, laptops or televisions – and help us cheer on these truly exceptional young scholars.”

The opening ceremony and other special events will be live-streamed, with details at spellingbee.com. The semifinals and finals will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPNU.

Ohio contestants

Nathan McElroy, 11, Marietta Veritas Classical Academy

Isabella Fletcher, 12, Steubenville Harding Middle School

Rajshekhar Basu Sarkar, 12, Van Buren Middle School

Sahana Srikanth, 12, Mason Middle School

Sarah Thompson, 12, Lisbon David Anderson Jr. High

Christopher Dominick, 13, Struthers Middle School

Kerem Duyar, 13, Avon Middle School

Sophia Lopez, 13, Cedarville Middle School

Hurshil Nittala, 13, Olentangy Liberty Middle School

Angelia Schmerr, 13, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy

Andrew Yeager, 13, Doylestown Chippewa Jr. High

Lyrik Brown, 14, Bridgeport Middle School

Nicholas Williams, 14, Tuscarawas Central Catholic Jr. High

Matthew Dufour, 15, Ashtabula Lakeside Jr. High