Pressure’s on: National Spelling Bee comes down to final 15

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The 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee competition will be held from May 30, 2017 through June 1, 2017.

Yacata. Foederatus. Schistosomiasis.

Those are just a few of the words spelled — correctly, we should clarify — at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, the 90th instance of the erudite tournament.

The bee is down to the final 15 contestants, and the winner will be decided at 8:30 tonight ET on ESPN. The final 15 features eight boys and seven girls from across the United States, including three from Texas.

Whoever takes the title, he or she will be the first outright winner in a while. For each of the past three years, the bee ended in ties after the contestants successfully completed the competition’s entire list of words.

Last year, Jairam Hathwar of New York spelled “Feldenkrais” (a method of exercise therapy) and Nihar Janga of Texas spelled “gesellschaft” (social relations held together by impersonal ties), giving them a joint title.

To end that scourge of ties, the spelling bee introduced a written “tiebreaker test” this year. If there is a tie at the end of the bee, the speller with the better score on the written test will be named the champ.

The winner receives a $40,000 grand prize and plenty of bragging rights, while second place gets a $30,000 reward.

This year’s highlights

No matter the winner, the star of the event was 6-year-old Edith Fuller, who became the youngest contestant at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The precocious home-schooled student from Oklahoma correctly figured out “tapas” and “nyctinasty,” but she failed to make the competition’s finals.

As with any intense competition, the bee was full of rapidly swinging emotions. Erin Howard, a sixth-grader from Alabama, offered a plea to the judges before receiving her word.

“OK, you really have to give me a word I know right now. Really,” she said.

She got “apparentement,” or an alliance of French political parties formed during an election.

“I’m sorry, did you misunderstand my request?” she said.

No matter. She got the word right and advanced to the finals of the competition.

Think you can do better than these kids? Take our quiz and find out.