Roscoe Middle School's Julissa Negron heads for National Spelling Bee
Next week, Roscoe's Julissa Negron will be one of 231 spellers contending for the championship in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Roscoe Middle School eighth grader won the Boone and Winnebago County Regional Spelling Bee at Harlem High School on March 8.
Where to watch
Rockton-Roscoe News will be covering Julissa through each round. Every segment except the finals will also be livestreamed on https://spellingbee.com/. The finals will be broadcast exclusively (and free) on ION platforms, which are owned by Scripps, the competition's sponsor. Last year, 7.5 million viewers watched at least part of the Bee programming.
The Scripps Networks can be found free over-the-air (on WIFR in Rockford, DISH, and DIRECTV) as well as on cable, satellite and streaming platforms. In addition to ION and Bounce, the semifinals and finals will also air on Scripps’ other national entertainment networks Defy TV, Grit, ION Mystery and Laff. For those without cable or dish, ION is streamed for free on Tubi and Pluto.
A rebroadcast of the finals will be available on Scripps News on June 2 from 9 to 11 p.m. and June 3 from 8 to 10 p.m.
More about the National Spelling Bee
On Sunday, Julissa and her family started their adventure at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, two miles from Washington DC. When not spelling words or choosing definitions, the young people will enjoy a pop-up carnival, a "Rule the Word Challenge," two sessions of "Camp Bee," a trip to the National Mall, and several educational sessions, concluding with the awards ceremony and a farewell party on Friday.
Julissa was coached this year by Avani Joshi, also from Roscoe Middle School, who won the Regional Spelling Bee in 2019 and 2021 and went on to nationals both times. Avani tied for 7th place at the 2021 National Spelling Bee. She is now a sophomore at Hononegah.
More about Julissa Negron
Julissa's official Bee biography says, "Julissa enjoys any activity that is music-related! She writes her own piano compositions in her spare time. She plays several other instruments and she sings. Julissa holds many leadership roles at her school, and she would love to have more in the future. She hopes to pursue a career in emergency medicine and can't wait for medical school. She looks forward to helping people as much as she can and to make the world a place where anyone can succeed at chasing their dreams."
Julissa says her favorite sport is tennis. Her favorite author is Stephen King, author of the phonetically-misspelled novel Pet Sematary and many others. And her favorite musician is violinist Hilary Hahn.
Julissa has a chance to make Bee history this year, as one of several Hispanic spellers in the competition. "To the best of our knowledge there has not yet been a champion who has identified as of Hispanic ethnicity," says Becca McCarter, a spokesperson for The E.W. Scripps Company. In recent years, most champions have been Indian-American.
In 2021 Zaila Avant-garde of New Orleans became the first Black American to win the national spelling championship. Zaila, who is also an elite 16-year-old basketball prospect who can juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time, will be part of the live broadcast, speaking to the contestants at this year's Bee Week, and signing her books. She has published two so far.
Spellers will compete in four segments of competition to determine who will take home the Scripps Cup: the Preliminaries, Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals. A familiar team will be overseeing the event, including pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly, head judge Mary Brooks, and associate pronouncer Dr. Brian Sietsema.
To qualify for the National Spelling Bee, a speller "must not have passed beyond the eighth grade" or turned 15 by the end of the summer. Amusingly, the official rules say "the speller must not bypass or circumvent normal school activity to study for spelling bees." That means they have to take least four courses that aren't "language arts, spelling, Latin, Greek, vocabulary and etymology."
Students represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe. Spellers will also represent three countries outside the U.S.: the Bahamas, Canada and Ghana.
When spelling a word, the speller must pronounce each letter distinctly and with sufficient volume to be understood by the judges.
- Contest Rules of the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee
Julissa is already guaranteed to win one-year subscriptions to Encyclopædia Britannica Online Premium and Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary Online. She will also receive a 2023 U.S. Mint proof set, given by Jay Sugarman "in honor of his father Samuel Louis Sugarman, who revered academic achievement," and a prize package, including Bee souvenirs and an official certificate of participation.
Quarterfinalists also receive commemorative pins and $100 gift cards. Semifinalists receive commemorative medals and $500 gift cards. Finalists win medals and at least $2,000 in cash, with 6th place to 2nd place prizes ranging from $2,500 to $25,000.
But the first place winner receives $50,000 cash, a commemorative medal, and the Scripps Cup, the official championship trophy designed by 143-year-old Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio. The grand champion will also receive another $2,500 cash and a reference library from Merriam-Webster, as well as more prizes from Encyclopædia Britannica.
In addition, SugarBee® Apple will pay about $2,500 for "local celebrations in the champion’s hometown" while Scholastic will provide $2,000 in "Scholastic Dollars" to be donated to the school of the champion’s choice. So everybody is happy.
History of the Bee
Since the first National Spelling Bee in 1925, Illinois students have won twice. In 1931, Ward Randall of White Hall, Illinois correctly spelled "foulard." In 1985, Balu Natarajan of Chicago correctly spelled "milieu."
The Spelling Bee has gotten tougher over the years: in 2021 Roscoe's Avani Joshi had to correctly spell "lophophytosis" and identify the meaning of "vitelligenous" - and that was only the semifinals. In 1957, the finals lasted almost ten hours - a record - and from 2014 through 2016, each National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for first place.
In 2019 for the first time, after 20 rounds failed to eliminate them, eight young people were named co-champions. That won't happen again. Now, if more than one speller remains standing as time runs out, the young person who can correctly spell the most words from a list will be declared champion. That's what happened last year, when San Antonio's Harini Logan won the championship by correctly spelling 22 words in a 90-second "spell-off." Logan will be returning this year to participate in the live broadcast.
To qualify for the competition, a speller "must not have passed beyond the eighth grade" or turned 15 by the end of the summer. This year, 4 contestants are nine years old and 73 are fourteen.
Many of the spellers have competed in the National Spelling Bee before. Avani Joshi competed twice, in 2019 and 2021. This year, 49 spellers are repeat competitors at Scripps National Spelling Bee, 14 of them for the third time. One 14-year-old homeschooler from Texas is competing for a record sixth time in the 2023 national competition. But for almost 80% of the spellers, like Julissa, this will be their first Scripps National Spelling Bee.
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