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Roy Seligman Wants to Win Big for the Bahamas in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Orlando, And Then (Like All Spelling and Super Bowl Winners) He's Going to Disney

Photo: Roy Seligman, Scripps National Spelling Bee
Photo: Roy Seligman, Scripps National Spelling Bee

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been a yearly tradition since 1925 except for a break in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

The bee has returned this year with the finals scheduled to take place tonight at 8 pm at the ESPN Wide World of Sports on the Walt Disney World campus.

Among the 11 finalists is Roy Seligman from the Bahamas who will attempt to bring home the trophy to his country for the first time in the history of the competition.

WMFE spoke with 12-year-old Seligman and his coach Katina Seymour about preparing for the competition starting with Roy’s favorite word to spell.

Read the full interview below. 

Roy: My favorite word is Clypeaster. It means a sand dollar. I like it because I find a lot of sand dollars when I'm in the ocean. C-L-Y-P-E-A-S-T-E-R.

Danielle: So Roy, you're representing a distant neighbor of ours here in the Scripps National Bee, the Bahamas. How does it feel to be representing your country for the first time here in Orlando?

Roy: I feel very proud to have an entire country behind my back.

Danielle: You know, and speaking of Orlando, how have you been spending your time ahead of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals? I'm guessing lots of drilling, flashcards, something like that.

Roy: Yeah, I've been practicing and reviewing a lot. But after the finals, I'm gonna explore the place.

Danielle: What do you kind of want to see first when you get a chance?

Roy: I want to go to Expedition Everest.

Danielle: How are you feeling going into the competition? Do you have any tips for staying calm under pressure?

Roy: I'm feeling nervous. But whenever I'm nervous, I just take deep breaths, deep breaths in and out.

Danielle: What does it mean to get to these finals? For you and for your family? I know the last year has been hard with the pandemic.

Roy: Like, I've put in a lot of hard work. So I'm very proud to have gotten this far into the competition.

Danielle: You know, I know that you love to spell but what else do you love? What do you want to be when you grow up for example?

Roy: Some of my hobbies are swimming and playing with Rubik's cubes. Math is my favorite subject. So yeah, I guess they're kind of connected. Um, I'm not sure what I'm gonna do when I'm when I grow up, I'm only 12.

Danielle: Fair point. Fair point. So what would you like? You know, to tell other kids who want to be in your shoes next year? What would you recommend to them? Any tips you can give them?

Roy: Hard work always equals results. I started spelling in 2018. And I just kept working. And now I'm right here.

Danielle: Katina, you know, what is it like coaching Roy? And why do you love working with him and his family?

Katina: He is just so, he's like a sponge. He soaks it in. And he's he's definitely very good with application. So we will learn a root, we will learn a language background, the pattern, the etymology. And when we're done with that, we are able to just go out and read or look at signs. Look, at I mean a whole list of words and be able to pick out okay, that one's German, that one's Greek, that one's Arabic, that one's Sanskrit. And we are able to do that. And he just blows my mind to apply them in so many ways. So it's not about learning every single word. It's like when you know the pattern, then you kind of like know, a big chunk of words that way. And he's really, really great with it. And of course, now he beats me, right? So I love the fact that he can beat me hands down. And he has, I mean, the time of his life, beating me with spelling, but I love it. I love it and love it.

Danielle: What would this mean for you, but also for him and for your country as well, if he wins?

Katina: It's just such a joy to see how we've brought good news to our country, just by just making it to this point, and so we want to be you know, the bearer of good news, so to speak. And I think so many people are going to be the better because of it. And then of course it'll be a big inspiration to many of our children. Some of them who are have been trying or been you know, on the sidelines looking and wondering if I can do it. I think this will definitely put that you know, nail in it and say listen, yes, I can do it. Somebody else from the Bahamas did it. And so I think this is definitely going to be the inspiration that many people are just waiting on. So for the country, for his family, for myself as a coach who participated in spelling bees in my sixth grade year, and so I have that kind of affinity to it as well. This will be really big for us and exciting for our country.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.