As the Scripps National Spelling Bee has become increasingly difficult, spellers are less likely to come out of nowhere and hoist the trophy.
There's more information available about competitors, and champion spellers fit a profile.
For them, the bee is an all-consuming, year-round pursuit. Eleven-year-old Nihar Janga surprised audiences last year by sharing the title in his first appearance. But in the spelling community, he was a seasoned competitor with an impressive resume. He finished second in the North South Foundation spelling bee, conducted by a foundation that hosts competitions for Indian-Americans in a variety of fields.
The last 10 National Spelling Bee winners were Indian-Americans who participated in the foundation's spelling bee.
After the third consecutive year with co-champions, the spelling bee has undergone a rule change.
This year, if at least two spellers make it through all 25 championship rounds, the bee will be determined by a test administered to finalists during the evening of the bee.
The exam will have 12 spelling words and 12 multiple choice vocabulary words.
The speller with the best score wins.
This year's National Spelling Bee starts Tuesday near Washington.
The 291 spellers include 11 contestants from Maryland.