Spelling bees come in all sizes and shapes — and sometimes they're remarkably young. So, who is the youngest spelling bee contestant for the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee? This year, viewers will get to see not one, but two young boys hash it out on stage. Say hello to North Carolina's Sivasaipraneethreddy Devireddy and Texas' Akash Vukoti. Both precocious 8-year-olds are the youngest contestants in this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is featuring a record-breaking 519 spellers.
The two young spelling contestants will compete, along with others, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor in Maryland. The first two preliminary rounds will take place on May 29-30 while the final round is on May 31. Devireddy and Vukoti will be up against hundreds of other students, with ages ranging from 9 years old to 15.
You may not have heard of Devireddy and Vukoti before but the interests of both spelling-eager boys have been listed on the official Scripps National Spelling Bee website — and the details are pretty darn cute. Vukoti, who is listed as the 459th speller in the contest, is a fan of South Asian cheese known as paneer, basketball legend LeBron James, and the television show Little Big Shots. Devireddy, the contest's 383rd speller, likes tennis, the movie Finding Dory, and lists Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison as his favorite historical figures.
Although this appears to be Devireddy's first official foray into America's most celebrated annual spelling competition, there is a chance you might have seen Vukoti from before. The young contestant first appeared in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee and told Vox that his favorite word was — take a deep breath — pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
Although Vukoti and Devireddy are this year's youngest contestants, an even younger 5-year-old Edith Fuller competed in the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee and spelled daunting words like "sarsaparilla," "Panglossian," and "jnana" — Hindi for "knowledge." Fuller, Scripps spokeswoman Valerie Miler told CNN, was the youngest person to have competed for the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship since it was first inaugurated in 1925.
If either Devireddy or Vukoti wins the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee, he will be taking a jaw-dropping amount of money and reference libraries. The champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee wins, among other things, an enviable $40,000 in cash, $2,500 in cash prize and a reference library from Merriam-Webster. But that's not all. The champion will also receive a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium from Encyclopedia Britannica and $400 worth of reference works, which includes a 1768 Encyclopædia Britannica Replica Set.
It isn't just the cash that makes the Scripps National Spelling Bee so attractive for these competitors. Perhaps even better than the prize is the amount of prestige champions and finalists win upon securing their positions. For young contestants like Vukoti and Devireddy, the honor might be in the challenge of facing much older contestants and soundly beating them at spelling tricky words.
There's good news for those want to see Vukoti and Devireddy dazzle their crowds. If you're in Maryland, you can watch the competition happen in person by going to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Initial rounds are free and being offered on a "on a first-come, first-served basis," according to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. That said, interested people will have to buy tickets to attend the final round on May 31, which is when when things get really heated.
If you still can't make it to Maryland, there's nothing to worry about. You can watch the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN, where it almost seems like a professional sport given how it intense and nail-biting the rounds are. Is it worth it? Y-e-s, yes.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the Scripss National Spelling Bee champion prizes. It has been updated to accurately reflect the prize.