Tonight's the big night: The annual Scripps National Spelling Bee is back and there's a brand-new crop of brilliant young people to root for. Over the past few days, 281 spellers have been whittled down to a final dozen. In case you've been too busy to catch all those hours of competition, we've gone and picked our favorites going into tonight's finals.
Kate Miller - Speller No. 232
Hometown: Abilene, Texas
Coolest Word Already Spelled: weevil (“a type of beetle from the Curculionoidea superfamily”)
Why She’s a Favorite: Mind you, this is directly from her Scripps bio, but it’s really all that you need to fall in love: “Film analysis, knitting Rodentia, and ‘crafting irreverent travesties of pop songs’ top Kate's list of hobbies.” Plus, look at her face in this photo. Sold.
Jacob Daniel Williamson - Speller No. 38
Hometown: Cape Coral, Florida
Coolest Word Already Spelled: harlequinade (“farcical clowning or buffoonery”)
Why He’s a Favorite: Right here: “In his free time, Jacob most enjoys playing fantasy sports, especially fantasy football.” Plus! Bottom left:
Tajaun Gibbison - Speller No. 87
Hometown: Mandeville, Jamaica
Coolest Word Already Spelled: vigneron (“a person who cultivates grapes for winemaking”)
Why He’s a Favorite: Because LOOK AT THIS FACE. #TeamTajaun
Some of the spelling bee kids are so awkward but my dude Tajuan is a class act— Daniel Ashenbaum (@theoneDbomb) May 29, 2014
Gokul Venkatachalam - Speller No. 139
Hometown: Chesterfield, Missouri
Coolest Word Already Spelled: perestroika (“the policy of economic and governmental reform instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union during the mid-1980s”)
Why He’s a Favorite: If you're looking to place real bets on this thing (maybe don't, though?), we'd recommend you go with Gokul: He tied for 10th place in the 2012 Bee and tied for 19th place last year. He's been here before.
With a bored expression that says "challenge me, please," Gokul Venkatachalam spells "morbilli," which means "measles." #spellingbee— Ben Nuckols (@APBenNuckols) May 29, 2014
Ansun Sujoe - Speller No. 237
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Coolest Word Already Spelled: laulau (“a Native Hawaiian cuisine dish, traditionally preparaed with pork in wrapped taro leaf”)
Why He’s a Favorite: You ready for this kid's pedigree? He has perfect pitch. He enjoys "playing chess, solving complex math problems and programming robots." And as a hobby, "he ministers to seniors in nearby nursing homes." He is also in the Spelling Bee finals, in case you already forgot.
Ansun is now taking a lead as my favorite spelling bee competitor. Kid has a dynamite sense of humor and can spell nearly anything.— Clayton Kilgore (@kilgorecf) May 29, 2014