BECAUSE THERE'S NOT ENOUGH PRESSURE: Ben Nuckols' table-setter for the Bee explains one change in the format:
The [premlimary] test scores will be announced and spellers will be ranked heading into the [Thursday] semifinals.
Tim Weinkauf, the lead producer of ESPN's coverage, said he'll take advantage of that change by showing golf-style leaderboards and highlighting the spellers who can work their way into the finals if someone ahead of them falters.
"I think it allows for more dramatic moments because there will be those certain kids that are on the bubble," Weinkauf said.I'm assuming that after the written round, everyone's checking the words anyway such that the kids who did perfect (or close) already know it. It's the rest who won't otherwise know how far back they stand: now, basically, there will some kids who know that they've got no realistic chance to advance absent a miraculous decimation of the other kids, no matter what. Why? Because ESPN is again imposing an artificial cutoff on the best kids rather than letting them spell-til-they-drop as in the past. Boo.
As previously discussed: I think it's fair to use a written to cull the group from the initial 285, after two live rounds on Wednesday, down to a reasonable number for Thursday morning. But from there, it should solely be decided on what happens at the live microphone. However long it takes. The kids deserve that chance.