It couldn’t have been better. America’s sharpest and brightest middle-school spellers wowed the world at the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee—arguably one of ESPN’s most thrilling sporting events of the year. The spelling match electrified viewers with high voltage emotions ranging from “the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat.”

Co-champions Vanya Shivashankar, 13, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, were the last left standing of 283 champions after three grueling days of spelling competition. Shivashankar swooshed the net spelling scherenschnitte from center stage and Venkatachalam slam dunked nunatak for victory ending the match. No doubt the co-champions had an edge on other contestants by learning to spell Shivashankar and Venkatachalam in kindergarten. These brilliant competitors conquer words that neither you nor I can spell, pronounce, much less define.

Composit by J. Richard Gentry
Source: Composit by J. Richard Gentry

Cole Shafer-Ray the uber cool show-stopper tripped on a vowel in acritarch, grabbed a cookie for consolation, and pushed back a kiss from his mom on national TV, as would any self-aware fourteen-year-old dude.

It’s a joy to see an awe inspiring competition that champions kids for being smart and demonstrating grit. Beyond that, the Scripps National Spelling Bee spotlights spelling knowledge which cognitive psychologists are discovering is essential for raising reading achievement—even in high school.

But that’s another story—soon to come.

Here are some Spelling Bee highlights from CNN:

Dr. J. Richard Gentry is the author of Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write–From Baby to Age 7. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and find out more information about his work on his website.

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