There's plenty of buzz swirling around the 2019 Scripps Bay Area Regional Spelling Bee competition on Sunday at the Amador Theater, the final hurdle before advancing to the national championship.
Three Pleasanton students -- from Hart Middle, Pleasanton Middle and Stratford schools -- are among the Bay Area's top spellers competing this weekend. Students from more than 230 schools throughout the region's 10 counties duked it out with the dictionary and local peers before those now remaining made it to Sunday's last round of elimination.
Students officially start their journey on campus, where grade-level winners advance to their schoolwide bee before taking an online exam, but Scripps National Spelling Bee communications manager Valerie Miller said in an interview that the real groundwork is laid long before they reach the classroom.
"Kids who are involved and interested in spelling bees are more likely to be early readers," Miller said. "The knowledge of words and understanding of vocabulary helps them moving forward" later in other areas of life as well, like public speaking and writing college applications and job resumes.
"Another intangible (benefit) is that idea of having a goal and being able to dedicate a lot of time and effort to achieving that," she added.
Some uncommon past winning words that national competitors have memorized include last year's "koinonia" (defined by Merriam-Webster, Scripps' official competition dictionary, as an "intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community"), and "appoggiatura" in 2005 (a musical grace note).
Although the Bay Area has generated several of the country's best spellers so far, several whom are serving at this weekend's bee in official capacity, organizers struggled at first to find a sponsor for this year's regionals event.
Visit Tri-Valley recently stepped in with financial assistance and support, bringing the competition to Pleasanton.
"The Bay Area holds great interest in our spelling program and we wanted to ensure the tradition of a regional competition would continue," Miller said, thanking the organization for helping put on the Bee. "We see this as a temporary solution for this year and look forward to solidifying plans for a new regional sponsor."
The champion of the regional bee will win a paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 27-30 in National Harbor, Md.
The Bay Area regional competition is on Sunday at the Amador Theater, 1155 Santa Rita Road. The free competition starts at 9 a.m. and is open to the public.