Julissa Negron sails through first two rounds of Scripps Spelling Bee


Julissa Negron spells "calusar" as she begins the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30, 2023.

Roscoe's Julissa Negron won her first two rounds in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday, May 30, 2023 about 9:45 a.m. Central. It is being livestreamed on https://spellingbee.com/ and on ION. This week the Roscoe Middle School eighth grader is with her parents and 231 spellers at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center near the nation's capital.

Julissa quickly moved to the third preliminary round by 10 a.m. She didn't ask any questions, and hardly paused, as she spelled "calusar." As you may know but probably don't, that's "a Romanian hobbyhorse dance done by members of a sworn brotherhood in wild steps and fierce mock combat" (and it's pronounced kəˌlüˈshär for crying out loud - she wasn't fazed by  the "sh" sound.) Then associate pronouncer Dr. Brian Sietsema asked the word meaning question, which was multiple choice: "Where would you most likely encounter a bonsai? A: In a circus tent. B. In an airplane cockpit. C. In a greenhouse." She immediately and confidently replied, "in a greenhouse." 

"That is correct," said Dr. Kavya Shivashankar, backup head judge. She herself was Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion in 2009. Julissa thanked the staff and went back to her seat.

Julissa's next round of spelling is from 3:25 to 6:25 p.m. Central Time. You can watch it on ION, which is streaming for free on Tubi and Pluto, through ION Plus and Bounce XL. The finals will be broadcast on WIFR in Rockford.

Julissa spent her first day registering at the convention center's Hall of Champions, posing for more official photos (she was a good sport about that), practicing with the microphone, screens, and timing lights (she spelled very fast), helping to paint a mural that said "Greetings from Bee Week," and working with a team of three other young spellers on a "Rule the Word Challenge."

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Tuesday's preliminaries have three rounds: spelling and word meaning starting in the morning, and then another round of spelling from 3:25 to 6:25 p.m. Central Time. Contestants can be eliminated in any round. For the first two morning rounds, they will be divided into smaller groups of about 60 each, for about an hour and a half at a time. Julissa was in the second group.

The winners from those rounds will all compete in the third round together, near the end of the day. After that, Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, will give a talk on From clothing to couture: how French brought “class” to English.

On Wednesday, May 31, 2023, quarterfinals will be aired from 7 a.m. to noon with semifinals from 7 to 9 p.m. Finals will be Thursday, June 1, 2023, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Spellers will compete in four segments of competition to determine who will take home the Scripps Cup: the Preliminaries, Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals.

In the spelling rounds, spellers have 90 seconds to correctly spell a word once it has been pronounced. In that time, spellers are allowed to ask Dr. Bailly or Dr. Sietsema for the word's definition, language(s) of origin, alternate pronunciations, and what part of speech it is. They can also ask the pronouncer to repeat the word or to use the word in a sentence. But they can't ask questions during the final 15 seconds of their turn.

In the word meaning rounds, which were introduced onstage in 2021, spellers are given 30 seconds to answer a multiple-choice question about the definition of a word.

More about the National Spelling Bee

Julissa Negron in the semifinals at Scripps Spelling Bee

At the National Spelling Bee, Roscoe teen moves ahead to the semifinals

Julissa Negron advances to the quarterfinals at National Spelling Bee

Julissa Negron sails through first two rounds of Scripps Spelling Bee

Roscoe Middle School's Julissa Negron heads for National Spelling Bee

Julissa Negron is on her way to Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington DC

Roscoe's Avani Joshi ties for 7th place in National Spelling Bee

Last year, 7.5 million viewers watched at least part of the Bee programming. 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. Founded in 1878, The E.W. Scripps Company's motto is, “Give light and the people will find their own way.” They own 61 local TV stations and several networks.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will be broadcast on ION and Bounce and on WIFR in Rockford, DISH, and DIRECTV as well as on Charter, Comcast and Mediacom cable. Online, ION is streamed for free on Tubi and Pluto.

Besides the spellers, the program will feature:

  • Pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly is associate professor of classics at the University of Vermont. The philosophy of Plato is his specialty. This year will mark Dr. Bailly's 20th year as pronouncer after 12 years as associate pronouncer, so that's 32 years total. Dr. Bailly was the 1980 National Spelling Bee champion.
  • Associate pronouncer Dr. Brian Sietsema was pronunciation editor for Merriam-Webster from 1990 to 1998 before becoming the parish priest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lansing MI.
  • Head judge Mary Brooks joined the panel of judges in 1979 and became head judge in 2005, so that's more than 50 years. A retired educator, she serves on the West Des Moines Public Library board of trustees.
  • Paul Loeffler has been a TV analyst for the Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2006.
  • Serving as Bee Week emcee is 2015 co-champion Vanya Shivashankar, who recently graduated from Yale.
  • The two most recent champions will be making appearances too: Harini Logan who won the cup in 2022 after competing four times, and Zaila Avant-garde, the 2021 champion.

Spellers are a diverse group from throughout the United States, the Bahamas in the Caribbean, Ghana in west Africa, and Canada north of here. Tazbah Spruhan, an 8th grader from Tséhootsooí Middle School in Window Rock, Arizona, says she's glad to be representing the Navajo Nation. Lila Rechel, from Lillington, North Carolina, helps take care of her family's bees, though she says spelling bees came before beehives. From 2008 to 2018, all fourteen champions were Indian-American. In 2021, Zaila Avant-garde became the first African-American champion in the National Spelling Bee's 90-year history. This year, Julissa is one of several Hispanic competitors from several states.

More Spelling Bee photos on Flickr

Click, tap, or swipe on the photo below to view more images of Julissa's first two rounds.

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