The Spelling Bee Contestants Are Oh So Young

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is kind of the Super Bowl of spelling, and as preliminary rounds wrap up, word nerds everywhere eagerly await the final events on Thursday. The talent of the Bee's spellers would be impressive regardless of their age, but the fact that the contestants are so young makes their feats even more amazing. How old are the spelling bee contestants?

According to the official National Spelling Bee eligibility requirements, in order to participate in the program, a student must not have turned 15 before Aug. 21, 2015. So the contestants are all under the age of 16. The rules also require that a student has not gone beyond the eighth grade by February 1, 2016. No minimum age is specified.

The 2016 spelling bee features an age range of six through 15, according to the official National Spelling Bee site's statistics. Only four contestants are under the age of 10. Most of the participants are 13 or 14 years old; 13-year-old students make up nearly 40 percent of 2016's spellers, and about a quarter are 14 years old. Seventh- and eighth-graders account for approximately 75 percent of the participants.

The youngest speller in 2016's spelling bee is 6-year-old Akash Vukoti, a homeschooled first-grader, ABC News reported. This little dude has been participating in spelling bees since he was two years old and was featured on Steve Harvey's Little Big Shots. His talent will blow your mind, and his promotional video for the Bee will melt your heart:

Vukoti's favorite word? Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. What kid doesn't love a 45-letter word for a rare lung disease?! He can, of course, spell it, too.

To get in on the National Spelling Bee, students must attend a school that is participating in official spelling bee programming (special arrangements exist for homeschooled students). The 285 spellers participating in 2016's Bee were winners of local competitions. They are a very small fraction of the estimated 11 million students who participated in National Spelling Bee programs throughout the 2015-16 school year in the United States, U.S. territories, and several other countries around the world, according to the Bee's official site.

The National Spelling Bee finals will take place on Thursday, May 26 at 10 a.m. ET and later at 8 p.m. ET. The biggest verbal sporting event of the year will air live on ESPN, and can be streamed (with a login) on WatchESPN. Those looking to keep up on results of the Bee without actually watching can use the hashtag #spellingbee to follow along on twitter.