Saturday, February 18, was an exciting day at the WHRO studio as 74 middle school students competed in the 2017 Virginian-Pilot Spelling Bee. In an exciting conclusion, 13-year-old Xuan Tran took home the first-place trophy. Tran attends Queens Lake Middle School in Williamsburg. Tran said she spent months studying words and brushed up on their pronunciation using a website. Though she had never heard the word that ultimately led to her victory, she made an educated guess that paid off. The next stop for Tran will be the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. She receives an expenses-paid trip to compete.

Anna Keller, 13, of Hugo Owens Middle School in Chesapeake took home second place, and Erin Keener, 13, of Hornsby Middle School in Williamsburg won third place.

Though only three students took home trophies from the competition, they were all champions. Each of the students won their school spelling bees to advance to the regional competition. As their parents watched them compete on large television screens in a room down the hall from the studio, many appeared as nervous as the students. Once a winner was determined, the students and parents celebrated with a cake reception.

This is the 10th year that WHRO has hosted the competition. It takes a crew of nearly 80, including staff from almost every department at WHRO, The Virginian-Pilot employees and reporters, and WHRO volunteers to organize the event. As the spellers nervously compete, an entire team of production staff is working behind the scenes to ensure the live broadcast goes smoothly.

WHRO-FM’s Raymond Jones again served as pronouncer and the Bee’s broadcast sponsor was Thomas Nelson Community College. This year’s judges included Bobbie Fisher, editor at Hampton Roads Physician; Andre Senior, an anchor at WVEC TV in  Norfolk; and Teri Winslow, editor of the Norfolk Compass and Portsmouth Currents at The Virginian-Pilot.

Enjoy a few more behind-the-scenes photos from the exciting event.

Spellers nervously wait for the bee
to begin.

Spellers receive a few
last-minute tips.

The production staff monitors the
live broadcast.

Parents watched the competition from another room.
A parent reacts as her child misspells
a word.

The production staff sets up and gets
ready to go live.

The judges relax prior to the competition starting.
Xuan was surprised to learn she spelled the championship word correctly. Xuan celebrates with her father after winning the
spelling bee.

Thank you to everyone who provided photos for this story: Teri Winslow and Vicki Cronis-Nohe of The Virginian-Pilot, Andre Senior of WVEC TV, freelance photograph Paige Perry, WHRO Staff members Grace Douglas, Rosalie Rodriguez, Annie Gilstrap, Belinda Elliott.