Youthful contestants at U.S. Bee not just whizzes at spelling

Thu May 28, 2015 9:33pm EDT
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By Ian Simpson

OXON HILL, Md. (Reuters) - The youthful contestants at the U.S. Scripps National Spelling Bee boast a lot of interests in their lives besides spelling, with athletes, musicians, actors and writers among the almost 300 competitors.

Shiv Lamba, 14, juggles being one of the best young spellers in the United States with playing soccer for the national developmental squad. The eighth-grader from Centreville, Virginia, said he studies spelling constantly, including while traveling to and from soccer practices.

"When we went to Europe for a tournament in Spain - we finished second - on the plane I was studying while everybody else was talking and stuff," said Shiv, who made it to the semifinals before missing on "eupyrion," a kind of match.

Ask Thomas Duck, 12, what he does besides spell, and the words come out in a rush.

"I play hockey, I play baseball, I sing in a choir, I play the trombone in a band, I play the violin. I eat three meals a day, I go to school and I sleep," said Thomas, a seventh-grader from Halifax, Nova Scotia, ousted earlier in the competition.

Paige Kimble, the executive director of the Bee, said many contestants listed music and sports as favorite activities, but there was no clear link between outside activities and success at the Bee.

The spellers include a cast member of the Broadway musical "Annie," a championship snowboarder, a crocheter and an expert on wetlands conservation.

Eesha Sohail, 13, an eighth-grader from Bakersfield, California, spent up to two hours a day studying spelling, but loves to write and is interested in science and medicine.   Continued...

Cole Shafer-Ray (L) of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Siddharth Krishnakumar of Houston, Texas, wait their turn to spell a word during the final round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor, Maryland May 28, 2015.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts