Campus News

Big Blue Bee champ to compete in Scripps National Bee

Photo, left to right: Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, Big Blue Bee champion Oliviah Braun and Mariama Lockington.
Photo, left to right: Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, Big Blue Bee champion Oliviah Braun and Mariama Lockington.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 22, 2024) — In March, 35 Central Kentucky school spelling bee champions in first through eighth grade took the stage to compete in the inaugural Big Blue Bee. 

The Big Blue Bee — a partnership between Scripps National Spelling Bee and the University of Kentucky College of Education — took place at the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center in downtown Lexington, and drew an excited crowd of family members, teachers and supporters to cheer students on.  

All 35 competitors won their school spelling bees and were invited to compete in the Big Blue Bee for a chance to win the regional title. Among student competitors were Lexington-based sisters Judith and Josephine; a third-grader, Shane, who donned a crisp bowtie as he spelled the word “fashionista” with pride; and a host of other talented young spellers. After 10 rounds, “marsupial,” the winning word, was spelled correctly by sixth grade homeschool student Oliviah Braun and the Big Blue Bee celebrated its first regional champion. 

As the regional champion of the Big Blue Bee, Oliviah will represent central Kentucky and the UK College of Education at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. May 28-31.   

“Winning the bee was shocking and exciting because I never expected to win or even come close to winning. It was also a little intimidating because I knew that it was a big honor to be in the national spelling bee,” Oliviah said.  

Oliviah is excited to travel to D.C. later this month, where she will compete against 245 other regional champions from across the U.S. She is preparing for the national bee by playing a game called Word Club and practicing with family. When Oliviah is not working on being a talented speller, she enjoys playing basketball, swimming, reading, listening to music, singing, cooking and hanging out with friends.  

Tune in to the Scripps live stream on ION+ TV to cheer Oliviah on. Preliminaries take place from 8 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, with the following rounds planned for May 29 and 30 (check online for the full live stream schedule). In the meantime, Oliviah has sage advice for future Central Kentucky and Big Blue Bee spellers.  

“Be confident and try your best, even if you don't know the word,” she said.   

Enrollment for the 2024-25 UK College of Education Big Blue Bee opens in August at Central Kentucky schools and homeschools are eligible. In the meantime, direct questions to Big Blue Bee Director Mariama Lockington at 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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