Meet the two Kentuckians who will compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Emily Keaton, Kentucky competitor in the 2013 Scripps spelling bee.
Emily Keaton, Kentucky competitor in the 2013 Scripps spelling bee.


This and other complex words will be fair game this week in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the most well-known spelling bee in the country. Two Kentuckians will be among 281 of the nation's best young spellers gathering for the competition in Washington, D.C.

The spelling bee will feature contestants between the ages of 8 and 14, with the Kentucky residents at both ends of the spectrum.

Emily Keaton, 14, of Pikeville is a veteran of the competition. She is one of only two contestants this year who will be returning to the bee for the fifth time. Tara Singh, 8, of Louisville is the competition's youngest participant — the only one younger than 10.

Emily has been a semifinalist in the spelling bee for the past three years, said her mother, Jill Keaton.

Emily just finished eighth grade at Christ Central School in Pikeville. She said anxiety will not be a problem when facing her opponents and the spectators, both in person and on ESPN.

"I don't really think I have as many nerves as I've had in the past, because I am more prepared this year," She said. "I've put more into it."

She said the experience will be about striving for results.

"In the first year, I enjoyed it more — I was younger," she said. "As each year has gone by, it is less and less about enjoyment and more and more about getting to work."

Since school let out for the summer, Emily said, there are some days that she studies more than she sleeps.

"I've got a will to compete. I'm very competitive," Emily said.

Competition also motivates Tara, Kentucky's younger contestant.

"When she found out she could compete with spelling, it really sparked her interest," said Anand Singh, Tara's father. He said Tara's interests include TV, Taylor Swift and reading Harry Potter or Percy Jackson.

If Tara has her way, this will not be the last of her trips to the National Spelling Bee.

"I'll always want to be there until eighth grade; then I can't go any more," Tara said.

Marcia Cassady, the head of Tara's school, Louisville Classical Academy, said she will have two spellers to cheer for, because she also knows Emily through a family friend.

"I'm glad to see Kentucky represented by two spellers this year," Cassady said.

The winner of the spelling bee will receive awards including a $30,000 cash prize and reference books.


The preliminaries of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be streamed live on ESPN3 from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. The semifinals will be aired live on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. Thursday, and the finals will be on ESPN at 8 p.m. Thursday.

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