Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Tonight, at 8 p.m., 11 children selected by lottery from the 50 districts of the post-apocalyptic nation of The United States of America will battle to the death on live television, in a competition that combines the erotic violence of vampires making love in a pool of blood with the danger and unpredictability of reciting rote letter patterns from memory. It's the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

The competition will be broadcast on ESPN. Here's your guide to picking which espeller to root for:

Speller No. 64: Pranav Sivakumar

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games


Age 13, 8th grade
Tower Lakes, IL

Pranav's official Scripps National Spelling bio paints a picture of a young man completely consumed with outer space. Pranav is obsessed. His role model is an astrophysicist named Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who "wasn’t afraid to stand up to the establishment," and one of his favorite things to do is just fucking stare at the sky for hours and wonder about it.

Root for Pranav: because this spelling bee isn't even his main thing tonight. He just wants to stare at the sky forever.


Speller No. 41, Christal Schermeister

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 13, 8th grade
Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida

Christal is home schooled, loves contemporary Christian music, and "is involved in many activities at her church," which is hilarious because her name is one letter away from being a champagne that rappers love. Today she is rocking giant statement earrings, a delicate side braid, and an assload of confidence. I can't stop pronouncing her name chri-STAL.

Root for Christal: and then root for all the homies who ain't here no more. Young Luv, 1 Luv, you're beautiful, Christal.


Speller No. 163, Arvind Mahankali

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games


Age 13, 8th grade
Hometown: Bayside Hills, New York

Arvind was a finalist in the Bee last year when he made a big impression by being the most excited child ever to appear on television. (Check out his crazed, frantic high five here.) Arvind's bio not only reveals that his favorite song is "I Believe I Can Fly," it also makes a physics joke about that song (it defies physics!), saddling him with the heavy burden of being the nerdiest nerd at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The world loves Arvind. He's a dollbaby. His bio also says his favorite word is "sardoodledom" and can't you just picture him getting too wound up off juice and fruit snacks and running around Target screaming it at the top of his lungs so that when he gets home his dad sends him straight to "the reflection chair"?

Root for Arvind: because he grows up so fast.


Speller No. 256, Vismaya Kharkar

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 14, 8th grade
Hometown: Bountiful, Utah

Vismaya's bio identifies her as "a two-time recipient of the Presidential Physical Fitness Award," which means she can sit and reach better than 85% of her peers.

Vote for Vismaya: if you are a recipient of the Presidential Fitness Award and then try winning a real fucking award for once, Jesus.


Speller No. 91, Vanya Shivashankar

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 11, 6th grade
Hometown: Olathe, Kansas

Vanya is a little showboat who lives for the stage but has no idea how to get herself there with any sort of efficiency. Here is the first line from her bio: "Vanya loves being on stage, whether it's playing the piano or tuba, singing, dancing, acting or – of course – spelling." Her love of attention and ability to play a hilarious musical instrument make her the ideal candidate to be accepted onto a dating-based reality television competition, but her endless quest for perfection ensures she would be eliminated in an early round for being too "Type A." Her older sister was the national spelling champion in 2009.

Root for Vanya: if people are always comparing you to your older sister and sometimes you just want to kill your older sister and pull her skin over your skin and marvel at how warm and wet your new skin suit feels and be done with it.


Speller No. 39, Grace Remmer

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 14, 8th grade
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida

Grace's bio describes her as "crazy about all things Disney" with a special crazed emphasis on "the search for 'hidden Mickeys'" placed in covert locations throughout the Disney theme parks, like so many dry ice bombs.

Root for Grace: if you are a conspiracy theorist, convinced the government is attempting to hide something from us. (Mickeys.)


Speller No. 156, Sriram Hathwar

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 13, 7th grade
Hometown: Painted Post, New York

Sriram's bio is all over the place. He "has a passion for" ping pong, he chants Sanskrit hymns while accompanying himself on the piano, he gave his first TED talk TWO YEARS AGO, and he would "love" travel back through time to meet Gandhi and rap with him about inner peace (and then maybe give a TED Talk with him, I don't know). But the best thing about Sriram is this: "Just before [every spelling bee], he snacks on M&M’s Minis for luck." Sriram has somehow convinced his parents that he needs to eat chocolate for luck.

Root for Sriram: to give him the confidence to graduate to full-sized M&M's; because game recognize game.


Speller No. 242, Syamantak Payra

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 12, 7th grade
Hometown: Friendswood, Texas

Syamantak's bio describes him as "a licensed amateur radio operator."

Root for Syamantak: if you are an unlicensed amateur radio operator, because it's important to have powerful friends on the inside.


Speller No. 115, Amber Born

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games


Age 14, 8th grade
Hometown: Marblehead, Massachusetts

I have no idea what Amber is doing on this stage because she is, frankly, too cool to be here. Unlike the other finalists who, almost without exception, intend to pursue careers as cardiovascular surgeons or physicists, Amber "would love to be a comedy writer one day." She lists Stephen Colbert as a role model. She plays the keyboard in a Beatles tribute band. She loves Frasier. SHE SPELLS HER WORDS BY COMPLETELY COVERING HER FACE WITH HER NAME CARD.

Root for Amber: and then tune into IFC twenty years from now to see young Amber bitingly satirized on an award-winning sitcom written by Amber.


Speller No. 238, Chetan Reddy

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games


Age 13, 8th grade
Hometown: Plano, Texas

Chetan Reddy wore a sweatshirt to what is almost certainly the single most important event of his young life, and then only talked about sports in his bio because he is trying really, really hard to establish himself as the jock of the spelling bee.

Root for Chetan: if you were "the jock" of opera club.



Speller No. 44, Nikitha Chandran

Pick Your Favorite Kid: The Scripps Spelling Bee Hunger Games

Age 13, 8th grade
Hometown: Valrico, Florida

Yesterday, Nikitha, more popularly known simply as "Speller #44," emerged as a folk hero when she was re-admitted to the competition as a semi-finalist after initially being eliminated. (Turns out the spelling a provided—viruscide—was an accepted alternative of “viricide” in the Bee’s official dictionary.) Speller #44 is People’s Speller. She is the Katniss of Scripps, playing the game on her own terms.

Root for Speller #44: because fuck the system for keeping her down.


[Images via AP, Scripps National Spelling Bee]

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