Pronouncers move beyond resources provided to competitors even sooner on the regional and national levels. Students who do best at those levels are those who read widely and study language rules.
Kathryn studies etymology, or the history and roots of words, before she gets on stage.
"They have certain rules, like tricks to help you spell it if you've never seen the word before, like in Arabic some letters come up double and in German they like to have three consonants together," she said.
Bass, a news anchor for WCHS and WVAH, has served the difficult role of pronouncer for the Kanawha County bee for the past three years. He says hearing the word and its root can make or break a speller.
He prepares for his role in advance and realizes the seriousness of speaking every word as clearly and concisely as possible.
"This is going to sound silly, but there is a lot of pressure involved with that job. I just don't want to be the reason that causes them to have an error," Bass said.
Bass has a history with spelling bees. He won multiple school contests when he attended the now-closed Arthur I. Boreman Elementary in Cross Lanes.
Kathryn said the thrill she gets from spelling a word correctly helps her overcome her nervousness about a competition.
"I just spell every word and it calms me down, I guess," she said.
Last year's regional champion, who represented the Gazette-Mail at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., was Elizabeth Koh, 13, of St. Francis De Sales School in Beckley.
Elizabeth won the Raleigh County bee and again will compete in the regional competition.
This year's regional winner will take a weeklong trip to the nation's capital to compete in the national bee. The regional trophy will be placed in the new champion's school for the next year.
The SMART529 program will award the regional champion a $2,500 college savings account.
The winner also receives the Samuel Louis Sugarman award, a $100 savings bond donated by Jay Sugarman in honor of his father, Samuel Louis Sugarman; a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online donated by Encyclopedia Britannica; a copy of Merriam Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the official reference for the bee.
The second-place regional winner will receive a $150 cash prize, a subscription to Encycopedia Britannica Online, a Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and a $20 Amazon.com gift card.
The third-place winner will receive a $75 cash prize, an Encyclopedia Britannia subscription and a $20 Amazon.com gift card.
Reach Amber Marra at amber.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4843