NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Three Arkansas students survived their first day at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday, correctly spelling the words they were given.
They’ll be back for round three Wednesday.
Twelve-year-old Pavani Chittemsetty of Bentonville correctly spelled naumachia — “An ancient Roman spectacle representing a naval battle.”
Dasha Blalock of Jonesboro and Weston Sills of Farmington, also advanced.
Dasha, 12, wasn’t flustered by bibliopegy — “The art of binding books.”
Weston, 13, wasn’t tripped up by degringolade — “a rapid decline or deterioration.”
This is the national bee’s 91st year.
The top spellers after Wednesday’s round will advance to the finals Thursday, which are broadcast live by ESPN.
The winner will receive $40,000, a trophy, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, trips to New York City and Hollywood and a reference library.
Ananya Vinay of Fresno, Calif., won last year’s contest. Justin Tyler Carroll of Wynne claimed the national title in 1995.
Chittemsetty, a two-time state champion, qualified for the contest by winning this year’s Arkansas State Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Blalock and Sills earned spots on the stage by entering RSVBee, a new program that gives spellers an alternate route to the national competition.
As a result of RSVBee, there were 516 spellers who qualified this year. That’s up from 291 in 2017.
The Arkansas spellers were in the first group that took the stage Tuesday morning. Of the 104 students on the first panel, 97 got their words right.
The three Arkansans started their day by taking a preliminary multiple choice spelling test.
Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.