Lewiston student to compete in preliminaries of national spelling bee on Saturday


Ashland Schnell of Sacajawea Middle School is among 209 students across the globe participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee preliminaries this weekend, marking the eighth grader’s last year of eligibility in the competition.

After earning first place in the 35th annual Inland Northwest Regional Spelling Bee, the qualifying event for the national bee, Schnell received a certificate, trophy and one-year online subscriptions to the Britannica and Merriam-Webster websites.

The 14-year-old will compete virtually against other spellers in an online testing platform for the first round of the national Scripps bee, which will be broadcast at 7 a.m. PDT Saturday on ESPN3 (an online-only channel). Her placement will determine whether she moves on, with the quarterfinals and semifinals scheduled for June 15 and 27 respectively.

“She’s pretty confident, but once you get to that level of anything, the competition’s pretty stiff,” said J.J. Schnell, her father. “The atmosphere is completely different.”

Schnell is one of two Idaho students who qualified for the national bee, the other being Hudson Brown, a fifth grader from Boise.

The top 10 to 12 students are invited to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for in-person finals July 8. Last year’s events were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.