An eighth-grader from Corona began competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Monday for the fourth and final time after tying for seventh place last year.
Aisha Randhawa was part of the record field of 562 taking a multiple-choice test with 12 spelling words and 14 vocabulary questions Monday, part of the qualifying process to advance to Thursday's finals. The test is considered the bee's first round.
The spellers will spell words aloud for the first time Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland near Washington D.C. Spellers correctly spelling their second-round word advance to the third round, which will begin Tuesday and conclude Wednesday.
Spellers spelling their third-round words correctly can advance to the finals, which are limited to a maximum of 50 spellers. Spellers' scores are plotted on a chart beginning at 36. Spellers at each consecutive scoring level are added until no more than 50 spellers have been attained.
Spellers receive one point for each of the 12 items correctly identified in the spelling portion of the test, one point for each of the 12 items correctly identified in the initial vocabulary section, three points for a correct answer to the lone item in the second vocabulary section and three points for a correct answer to the lone item in the third vocabulary section.
Aisha is among seven spellers in the national bee making their fourth or fifth appearances. She has the fourth-highest past finish in the field.
Aisha was eliminated in the 11th round of last year's bee when she misspelled perduellion, a noun meaning treason, omitting the second L. She tied for 22nd place in the 2016 bee and tied for 35th in the 2017 bee.
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Aisha has qualified for the national bee by winning the Riverside County Spelling Bee a record four consecutive times.
Aisha said she thoroughly enjoys "learning of all kinds," loves performing in the Auburndale Intermediate School jazz band, for which she plays the piano and alto saxophone. She said she has fun with her siblings and friends playing board games and exploring the outdoors.
The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below. Contestants for the 92nd edition of the national bee range in age from 7 to 15 years old.
The field consists of spellers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense schools in Europe.
Seven foreign nations are also represented -- the Bahamas, Canada, Germany, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
The field grew from 291 spellers in 2017 to a then-record 515 last year because of the creation of the RSVBee program, an invitational program designed "to level the playing field for national finals qualification," Valerie Miller, the bee's communications manager, told City News Service.
The program gives students who live in areas without sponsored regional competitions the opportunity to advance to the national bee along with "spellers in competitive regions, where one speller is declared the winner from thousands of schools," Miller said.
To qualify for the RSVBee program, students had to win their school spelling bee or be a former national finalist and attend a school enrolled in the Bee program. Parents applied on behalf of their child and paid a $1,500 participation fee to accept an invitation.
The 2018 champion, Karthik Nemmani, from McKinney, Texas, was an RSVBee participant.
The winner will receive a record $50,000 cash prize, $10,000 more than last year, from Scripps, which owns television stations and newspapers.
The winner also receives $2,500 and a complete reference library from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster; reference works and a three-year online membership from Encyclopedia Britannica, plus trips to Hollywood to appear on the ABC late-night program "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and New York City to appear on the syndicated morning talk show "Live with Kelly and Ryan."
Television coverage begins Tuesday at 5 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on the ESPN App and the broadband network ESPN3. Wednesday's third round will be shown on the ESPN App and ESPN3 from 5 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. The announcement of the finalists will be made at about 1:45 p.m. and be televised on the ESPN App and ESPN3.
Finals coverage will begin at 7 a.m. Thursday on ESPN2 and the ESPN App. The prime-time portion will air from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on ESPN and the ESPN App.
The multiple choice Play Along version of both portions of Thursday's coverage will be shown on ESPN U and the ESPN App.
Viewers get a one-in-four chance to pick the correct spelling of the given word and informational boxes highlighting the word's etymology, definition, clear pronunciation and part of speech, as well as live tweets, the speller's biography and more.
A speller from Riverside County has never won the bee.