In a state as big as Texas, sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.
"After I won the regionals, I made those, so I can get motivated," said Brihasa Weduru, who made miniature clay versions of theScripps National Spelling Bee trophy.
For the 10-year-old from Keller, Texas, words open up a whole new world.
"Spelling is like going on a world trip, and I think that's fun," she said, "because there are lots of places, like the etymology of the words, so you can learn about their cultures."
It's knowledge that comes from studying for the bee, not just for her, but for all the spellers, including 14-year-old Gabriella Chiang of College Station, Texas.
"It felt very surreal because when I was growing up, we would always watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee on TV," she said, "and now I'm one of them."
When she's not prepping with words, Gabriella stays busy by making elaborate pop-up greeting cards for birthdays and holidays.
"I feel like I'm really creative doing this," she said. "It feels really fun to do this — to put everything together and also measuring and cutting. You have to be very precise doing this."
There is also precision required in spelling; there is no room for error, or the spellers are out. That is something the bee's new executive director, Corrie Loeffler, understands well.
She competed in the bee herself.
"I want the spellers to see themselves on this national platform, on this national stage, competing against kids from all over the country, and understand that they earned their place there," Loeffler said, "and there's so much more available to them in the world."
In the end, though, she hopes all the spellers simply enjoy the week, have fun, and create new memories.
"However they do in the competition, it's going to be great, and the things that they remember are not going to be how many rounds they lasted," Loeffler said. "It's going to be really the deeper learning that they do during the week."
It's a message the spellers are taking to heart.
"Even if you lose, it's OK," Brihasa Veduru said. "The journey is worth it."
After 229 spellers take the stage on Tuesday, that number will shrink to just about 70 or so spellers making it to the next round on Wednesday.
You can watch a special broadcast of the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, on the ION and Bounce channels, as well as stream it on the bee's website.
Tune in to those same channels for the live finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday 8 p.m. ET.
Editor's Note: Scripps News is a subsidiary of the E.W. Scripps Company, which also runs the Scripps National Spelling Bee on a not-for-profit basis.
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