For the last three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in ties.
To break that streak, the rules have changed to introduce a written “Tiebreaker Test,” which will be given to all spellers who remain in Thursday’s finals at 6 p.m.
The competition is now down to 40 finalists after starting with 291 spellers. And they’re vying for the $40,000 grand prize.
Here’s what the 2017 final looks like by the numbers:
6-year-old sets record
Kindergartener Edith Fuller is the youngest person ever to compete at the national bee. She competed against kids more than twice her age and knocked out the words “nyctinasty” and “tapas.” But Edith didn’t qualify for the finals after a written test and won’t be seen on stage Thursday.
But at age 6, she has many years of eligibility left.
73 spellers couldn’t get enough
About 25% of the spellers this year have made it to the National Spelling Bee before. More than half of the finalists are returning to the competition for a second, third and even fourth time.
Tejas Muthusamy, a 14-year-old from Glen Allen, Virginia, and Tara Singh, a 12-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, are two out of three four-year veterans this year who are headed to the finals. Muthusamy tied for 22th place last year and Singh was the youngest speller in the 2013 competition.
71 learned English as a second language
Without a doubt, spellers master language better than many of us. For some of them, 71 to be precise, English wasn’t the first language they learned. Many also speak or study 38 different languages, including Bengali, Filipino, Mandarin, Korean, Urdu and American Sign Language.
7 finalists from California
At least 20 states have spellers in Thursday’s final, but the Golden State may take the crown. California is home to seven of the finalists — four girls and three boys. Music runs through these spellers’ veins. Some play violin, the French horn and Carnatic music, a style of Indian classical music.
90 years of spelling
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is marking its 90th anniversary.
Louisville Courier-News organized the first competition in 1925. The winning word was “gladiolus,” spelled correctly by the first champion, Frank Neuhauser.
The winning words in 2016 were “gesellschaft” and “Feldenkrais.”