2021 Maryland Spelling Bee Returns in a Virtual Format

17 Mar, 2021

The Maryland Sports Commission (Maryland Sports) has a new format for the 2021 Maryland Sports Spelling Bee.  After being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the event will return this year with a date set for March 20.  Ashley Harper Cottrell, Program Manager for Maryland Sports and Director of the Maryland Sports Spelling Bee, said that this year’s event will be much different than previous years, as it will be carried out in a totally virtual format,

It’s really a new experience for everyone involved, especially those of us who are trying to organize and execute the event,” said Cottrell.  “The staff at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the sport’s governing body, have worked for the last year to come up with a format that will allow this tradition to continue at the local level.  They’ve really done a fantastic job,Cottrell added.

We know that students have had to sacrifice many normal aspects of their lives over the last year, so we’re delighted that Maryland Sports was able to adapt its annual spelling bee tradition for 2021 in order to give its spellers the opportunity to showcase their skills in a new, creative and virtual way,” said Becca Cochran, a Scripps spokesperson.

Over the years, the Maryland Sports Spelling Bee has featured some of the most intense competition that we’ve seen in any sport, so it’s really great that we can give these competitors the platform to showcase their skills again,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of Maryland Sports. 

Traditionally, the Maryland Sports Spelling Bee is a day-long competition featuring some of the top spellers from around the state, facing off until one person is crowned champion.  It is the first event owned by the Maryland Sports Commission, open to all kindergarten to eighth grade students across 12 counties in Maryland and Baltimore City, including students who are homeschooled or attend private schools. 

Given the program adaptations needed to make this a safe bee season for all involved, the Scripps National Spelling Bee offered local programs the ability to choose from a variety of options to determine a champion. One of those options includes use of an online testing platform the Bee introduced to allow schools and local sponsors to administer their spelling bee programs virtually through online spelling and vocabulary exams,” said Cochran, adding, “This new platform ensures schools can host a school spelling bee and name a school champion, whether students are learning in the classroom or virtually from home. We think this will be a fun and exciting path for the spellers competing this year.

The team at the national office provided us with a plethora of options, and we decided the best option would be an opening round qualifying test that could be administered in a students home or at their school with an on-site proctor, and a ‘Final Four Spell Off’ to determine the overall champion,Cottrell said. 

Earlier this week, the Scripps National Spelling Bee announced that all preliminary, semi and quarter final competitions for 2021 will take place completely online.  For the final round, the top ten to twelve competitors will travel to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida this July to compete for the championships.  Prior to 2020, the national championship had been a perennial staple at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort in Prince George’s County, Maryland. 

What matters the most to us right now is that we’re able to host our Bee again, and that we can help return a sense of normalcy to children from around the state who’ve endured so much over this last year,” said Hasseltine.  “Obviously we would love for the national competition to return to Maryland from a sport tourism perspective and economic impact standpoint. But right now, it’s about doing something for the kids and ensuring that we host an event that is safe and within the standards set by our own state guidelines,Hasseltine stated.

In recent years, The Warehouse at Camden Yards in Baltimore served as the host venue for the Maryland Sports Spelling Bee.  That venue, owned and operated by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) - the parent agency of the Maryland Sports Commission - provided incredible aesthetic and vantage points of Downtown Baltimore and Oriole Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles. As has been the case in past years, Maryland Sports will call upon volunteers within both Maryland Sports and MSA to help with various duties from judging to pronunciation. 

This is always a favorite event among our staff and Board. We always have plenty of colleagues excited to help out when it comes to our Bee,” said Cottrell.

The Maryland Sports Spelling Bee has also been hosted at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, home of Navy Athletics and has featured such notable volunteers as David Collins from WBAL-TV, Michael Frenz, Executive Director of the MSA and the late Rodger Dorsey - a School Spelling Bee Champion and MSA’s Human Resources Director. Various family members of Maryland Sports’ staff have also been roped into helping over the years, their continued support is always appreciated.

What: 2021 Maryland Sports Spelling Bee

Where: Virtual/ Online

When: March 20, 2021

About Maryland Sports:

Maryland Sports' mission is to enhance Maryland's economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events. Maryland Sports is the go-to resource for the sports events and sport tourism industry in the State of Maryland.

About the Maryland Sports Spelling Bee:

The event began in the fall of 2017 to provide an opportunity for 10 counties in Maryland that do not currently/historically have a sponsor/participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee program. Maryland Sports rose to the occasion and created the Maryland Sports Spelling Bee: open to all students- public, private and homeschooled-  Kindergarten through 8th grade in the counties represented by Maryland Sports. 

About the Scripps National Spelling Bee:  

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives. Visit for more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company. 


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