Sage Steele talks National Spelling Bee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Every year since 1925, except during World War II (1943-1945), about 200-plus young spellers travel here on Memorial Day week to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Since 1994, ESPN has been there to capture the memorable moments from the captivating competition.

This week, the youngest contestant ever in this competition, six-year-old Lori Anne C. Madison of Woodbridge, Va., joins 277 spellers.

She, like other contestants, will complete computer spelling tests today as part of the preliminaries. The test scores, combined with results from Rounds 2 and 3 airing on ESPN3 Wednesday, will determine the semifinalists who will be seen on ESPN2 and ESPN3 on Thursday, May 31, at 10 a.m. ET. The champion will be crowned during ESPN’s 8 p.m. coverage on Thursday.

Front Row caught up with SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele, television host of the National Spelling Bee, to get her insights on her preparation for the telecast, similarities between the contestants and athletes, and her empathy for the competitors.

How do you prepare to host the National Spelling Bee?

Fortunately, I do not have to worry about spelling any words, so my preparation is much easier. ESPN researchers for the Bee are phenomenal. They hand me a binder with detailed info on each speller — from the pronunciation of their names, which is very crucial, to their parent’s occupations and their favorite movies. After the semifinals, I also participate in interviews with the finalists. Speaking to them and their parents is extremely helpful. It gives me a greater appreciation for how hard they’ve worked and how diverse their interests are. Contrary to popular belief, they are normal kids.

To read the rest, check it out here on ESPN Front Row.