Letter Perfect

Behind the scenes at the National Spelling Bee

They pored over dictionaries for months or years. They breezed through the spelling of words like "nemathelminth." Among them were a chess club president, a stiltwalker, and a girl who created her own language. These 273 young spellers came from across America and as far away as Guam to compete last week in the 78th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Eighth-grader Anurag Kashyap sometimes spelled so quickly that only the judges could follow him. And when he rushed through "appoggiatura" (an embellishing musical note) in the 19th round, the teen from Poway, Calif., clinched the competition. His reaction (and coined word): "ecstatic-ness." During the two-day event, the fourth- through eighth-graders also braved words like "Roscian" (skilled in acting) and "sphygmomanometer" (a medical instrument). Monitor photographer Andy Nelson captured some of their notable moments.

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