National Spelling Bee finals begin with 50 kids seeking title

Charles Fennell of Connecticut competes in the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

OXON HILL, Md. — The finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee have begun, with 50 kids on stage competing for more than $50,000 in cash and prizes and a new, custom-designed trophy.

This year’s bee had the biggest field ever, with 562 spellers, more than half of whom got in through Scripps’ wild-card program. Last year was the first time that wild cards were allowed into the bee, and the eventual champion was a wild card.

Thursday’s finalists include nine spellers who finished in at least a tie for 10th last year. The field will be narrowed to about a dozen spellers in the morning and early afternoon before the prime-time finals on ESPN Thursday night.

The last 14 champions and 19 of the past 23 have been Indian-American.

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