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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

National Spelling Bee Right Now Under Way

Aired May 29, 2002 - 09:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: They're off and spelling again this morning. The national spelling bee right now under way. And for the 250 kids competing, the word today is A-N-X-I-O-U-S; that is anxious.

Wendy Guey knows the feeling. She won it all back in '96.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY GUEY, 1996 NATL. SPELLING BEE WINNER: Vivisepulture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The act of practice of burying alive.

(LAUGHTER)

GUEY: Vivisepulture -- V-I-V-I-S-E-P-U-L-T-U-R-E.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: That was six years ago, and today Wendy Guey is a freshman at Harvard.

This morning, she joins us live from D.C. to handicap this year's events.

Good morning, Wendy. How are you?

GUEY: Good morning to you.

Very good thank you.

HEMMER: We already had you in here to give us a bit of an analysis as we work our way through the spelling bee competition. Here's what I want to know from you. When there's a speller in front of the judges, can you tell whether or not that person has the right stuff?

GUEY: Well, it's very difficult to tell, especially since, you know, you have all different types of people in the spelling bee. I think there are some spellers who definitely have an air of confidence to them, but there really is no set of description of someone who will do well in the spelling bee. The types of people that have won in the past really just vary incredibly.

HEMMER: So you can gauge confidence, though, right?

GUEY: Yes, you can tell. They walk up to the microphone, strutting their stuff, and it's just -- but the spelling bee does depend on how much you prepare, and also there's a lot of luck involved as well.

HEMMER: Luck indeed.

Let's go back, if we can show viewers the competition that continues, and as we do this, Wendy, do you find a way that most students use as a standard to prepare for this?

GUEY: A lot of them do take certain words from dictionaries, or just look through magazines and things form more abstruse-type words to study, and there are actually a lot of books on the market for spelling bee studies.

Yes, there's a group of sisters that have participated in the spelling bee in the past that produce guides, and the national spelling bee also does provide past lists, and sometimes some of those words are cycled again.

HEMMER: So there's some research out there if you want to go find it, right?

GUEY: Yes, there is.

HEMMER: What do you make of idea this year where you have to spell 25 words and write it down. Is there a difference there? What do you make of that?

GUEY: Well, the reason why the wee decided to do that this year, is because there's been immense growth within the bee, and also spellers have starting spending more time at the microphone. And, really, the written bee designed to cut time, so that there -- they wouldn't have to extend the bee to three days of competition.

So I think it really a good way to save time, and also it gives the spellers more even playing fields sort of, because all of them are tested on the same words, and the same 25 words. and the -- go ahead.

HEMMER: You would know.

GUEY: The same amount of people are allowed to go on to round three as in previous years. They expect about 80-115 will advance to round three tomorrow.

HEMMER: I mentioned you won in 1996. In 1997, the following year, a woman by the name of Rebecca Sealphone (ph) won it. Her reaction, that is somewhat indelible in our minds. Let's look at it come back and talk about it in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Euonynum: E-U-O-N-Y-N-U-M.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Love that reaction. The thing that people don't realize that you competed against Rebecca in the previous year. And after you won, she came up to you and said something. What did she say?

GUEY: She said to me, you know, I will win the spelling bee next year, and it was really amazing, because many people can say that, but not very many people can do that. So it was definitely very impressive that next year when she did win. Very exciting.

HEMMER: I bet it was.

This year, then, Wendy, tell me this, does someone have decided edge or advantage?

GUEY: Well, I think everyone comes in pretty much, you know, very prepared from their regional bees, and, though, I can't say that we do have any favorites, there are those who have participated and might have an edge just and the fact they have a lot of experience. And this year, there are four-year repeaters, three-year repeater, and those who have placed in the top 10 in previous bees. So you can look at those people to probably have a similar top stellar performance.

HEMMER: Thanks, Wendy.

GUEY: Thank you.

HEMMER: Good to chat with you six years later. Wendy Guey, a freshman at Harvard.

HEMMER: You're spelling OK there?

GUEY: We'll see. I don't know.

HEMMER: Get back to us Thank you, Wendy. Have a great year.

GUEY: Thank you.

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