The Scripps National Spelling Bee reaches its dramatic conclusion tonight as a group of nine middle schoolers meet in the nation's harbor (National Harbor, Maryland, or, as it is consistently and vaguely identified on the Scripps website, "near Washington, D.C.") to brawl to the death until only one remains.
$40-a-pop tickets to the event have already sold out, but the showdown is being broadcast LIVE RIGHT NOW (until 10 p.m. Thursday) on ESPN, America's #1 espelling channel. You can watch a live feed here.
Now, quick — before the competition ends — pick your favorite kid:
Speller No. 89: Gifton Wright
Gifton Wright is the obvious favorite. His name contains the word "gift," a moneyed term for what you and I call would call a present. He hails from a place called Spanish Town although the non-Spanish name would imply it is not. Spanish Town is located in Jamaica, meaning that every word Gifton gets is restated and then spelled back in a fun Jamaican accent, a process beautifully illustrated in this Youtube video, in which he and a spelling competition official say the phrase "llano or llano" back and forth at one another no fewer than twelve times.
Unfortunately, because he is the obvious favorite, I have already picked Gifton as my favorite. Under the laws of favorites, no one else can choose him. You must pick your favorite from the children below.
Speller No. 30: Frank Cahill
Frank is amazing. An avid theatre fan, he has played the lead roles in both Oliver Twist and Dracula, meaning he is just as comfortable warming your heart as he is draining it of its delicious blood and then eating it. He plays lacrosse. He is a boy scout. He is a sculptor. He looks so much like someone who would be named Frank that, when you look up "Frank" in the dictionary, there's a picture of our Frankie smiling up at you like "Hey, I'm Frank." Root for Frank if you know what it is to be forced into a lacrosse uniform when your heart belongs to Broadway.
Speller No. 44: Stuti Mishra
Stuti Mishra is from Florida. Root for her to get out of there.
Speller No. 19: Snigdha Nadipati
Snighda's bio on the Scripps website notes that she "collects unique coins from around the world," meaning she is ‘bout that bank. Root for Snighda if you are a gold digger. (She also enjoys "reading whodunits," so root for her if you did it, out of respect.)
Speller No. 136: Jordan Hoffman
According to her Scripps biography, this past fall, Jordan Hoffman wrote an a cappella choral composition that the Lee's Summit Youth Chorale performed throughout the year. Jordan is a member of the Lee's Summit Youth Chorale. Root for Jordan if the Glee character with whom you most closely identify is Rachel Berry.
Speller No. 145: Emma Ciereszynski
Emma Ciereszynski chose her last name specifically to intimidate her spelling bee competitors. Her bio notes that she was reading "proficiently" at age two. I note that this is not the same as "excellently" and remain unimpressed. Her favorite novel is House of Leaves. Root for Emma if your favorite novel is House of Leaves.
Speller No. 162: Arvind Mahankali
Arvind is the Baby Spice of the group, a mere 12 years old to everyone else's 14. His favorite book is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which is crazy because the best Harry Potter book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Root for Arvind if you don't know what good is.
Speller No. 193: Nicholas Rushlow
"This year, Nicholas has started playing ping-pong in a school club." Root for Nicholas.
Speller No. 213: Lena Greenberg
Lena is the prototypical spelling bee kid. Home schooled. Far-away, dreamy voice. Hands forever clutching at her face. Watch her exist in this clip from a Philly news show, in which one of the on-air hosts is painfully unable to say or understand the word "mariachi." Root for Lena as you would root for a calf on its way to slaughter or if you are from Philly.
Speller No. 269: Lori Anne Madison
Lori "Lori Anne Madison" Anne Madison, the six year old who earlier this week captured our hearts and then locked them up in her "specimen room" for further analysis, is long out of the competition. She was booted in the preliminary round after she incorrectly spelled the word "ingluvies," and then a bunch of adults made her talk endlessly about how she had incorrectly spelled the word "ingluvies." Lori Anne described her Scripps experience as "…just boring. Really boring! Really boring!"
She also called out Scripps National Spelling Bee Director (and 1981 winner) Paige Kimble for being a goddamn illiterate moron:
"When you won, the words were much easier. Someone won on `therapy.' I mean, come on!"
Root for Lori Anne Madison because she will remember if you don't and, one day thirty years from now you will suffer for it.
UPDATE: Whodunit? Snigdha done it! She won on "guetapens." She is now $30,000 richer. Take it to the bank, girl.
[Scripps National Spelling Bee // Images via AP]