Of the 281 spellers competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington at the end of the month, five were chosen to be profiled.
Lakeside Middle School’s Rachael Cundey, who will compete in her fifth and final bee a year after finishing 10th, was one of the five and is spending time with an ESPN producer and camera crew for a few days this week.
“It’s exciting to have all this attention, but it’s also a little overwhelming,” Rachael said.
On Tuesday morning, the middle school media center was transformed into an Academic Bowl setting for a half-hour. Two teams of five – one captained by Rachael – participated in a mock academic bowl so ESPN could capture her in action for its profile piece.
The preliminaries will be shown on ESPN 3 on May 29; the semifinals will be shown on ESPN 2 at 2 p.m. May 30, and the finals will air that night at 8.
“We like to showcase the personality of the kid, bring them outside the classroom,” said ESPN feature producer Zac Budman. “We’ve run into a case where the personality of this particular contestant is school. She’s very dedicated. Her personality is school. She calls herself a nerd, so you don’t get that out of a 14-year-old very often. Someone who is really comfortable with that, so I thought that’s really going to play well.”
Sitting at a table with buzzer in hand, wearing her Lakeside Geek Squad T-Shirt, Rachael didn’t appear fazed by the attention. She answered science and math questions thrown out to the teams by teacher Angela Stokes.
“I wasn’t aware of it for most of the time,” Rachael said of the camera. “I just pretended like it was a normal Academic Bowl competition.”