A 13-year-old Edina middle school student earned his way into the semifinals at the 70th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Mark Kivimaki, a seventh-grader at Valley View Middle School, and 45 other spellers will compete for the national crown to be decided Thursday night at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., as millions watch on ESPN.
Five Minnesota spellers were among the 281 entrants who started the spelling bee on Tuesday. Shane DeSilva, an eighth-grader at Pacelli Catholic School in Austin, and Lauren Crabtree, an eighth-grader at Forestview Middle School in Brainerd, Alyssa Boynton, a seventh-grader at Murray County Central School in Slayton; and Kellen Rufus Rodriguez, an eighth-grader at Fairmont High School, were eliminated before the semifinal round.
Kivimaki, who speaks fluent French and intermediate-level Finnish, is fascinated by linguistics, according to his Spelling Bee biography. But he’s also interested in history, physics and psychology. He runs cross-country and track and participates in a number of academic extracurricular activities. The Edina middle-schooler was a Minnesota state runner-up in Academic Triathlon and was on a world champion Knowledge Master Open team.
This year’s spellers are converging from around the United States and its territories, as well as seven other countries: the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea. Within the U.S., all 50 states are represented, along with competitors from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.
Along with lots of face time on ESPN, the winner also receives $30,000 in cash, scholarship money and other prizes.
Minnesota has had one national spelling champion, Sean Conley of Shakopee, in 2001.
The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. The E.W. Scripps Co. took over in 1941 and after not holding the competition for three years during World War II, has managed the bee continuously since 1946.