Rachael Cundey could probably figure the odds of being chosen to be highlighted during the upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Of the 281 spellers competing in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 29 and Thursday, May 30, Cundey was one of only five selected to be profiled.
Cundey, who will be competing in her fifth and final bee a year after finishing 10th, spent time with an ESPN producer and camera crew for a few days this week.
“It’s exciting to have all this attention but it’s also a little overwhelming,” said Cundey.
ESPN was shooting enough footage for a minute-and-a-half profile piece to air during the competition.
Tuesday morning, the middle school media center was transformed into an Academic Bowl setting for half an hour. Two teams of five – one captained by Cundey – participated in a mock academic bowl so ESPN could capture her in action for their profile piece.
“We like to showcase the personality of the kid, bring them outside the classroom,” said ESPN feature producer Zac Budman. “We’ve run into a case where the personality of this particular contestant is school. She’s very dedicated. Her personality is school. She calls herself a nerd so you don’t get that out of a 14-year-old very often, someone who is really comfortable with that, so I thought that’s really going to play well.”
Sitting at a table with buzzer in hand, wearing her “Lakeside Geek Squad” T-shirt, Cundey didn’t appear fazed by the attention or the camera placed within feet of her face at points throughout the competition. Instead, she answered science and math questions thrown out to the teams by teacher Angela Stokes. The teams weren’t given the questions ahead of time, so it required the teams to concentrate on figuring out the correct responses.
“I wasn’t aware of it (camera) for most of the time,” said Cundey. “I just pretended like it was a normal Academic Bowl competition.”
After the mock competition was concluded, questions and answers were repeated, this time with the camera getting different angles of Cundey and her classmates.
Having academic bowl teammates around her and others as audience members helped enhance her enjoyment of the process.
“It’s really cool. I’m glad my friends got to be a part of this,” Cundey said.
In addition to the academic bowl, ESPN also got footage of Cundey working a math equation, and later filmed her and her family at home.