Competitors in the Scripps National Spelling Bee often struggle to contain their emotions as they react to obscure, complicated or tricked-up words that they may have never heard before.

Not knowing a word doesn't always mean a speller will get it wrong — the savviest competitors can piece together a word by relying on their knowledge of roots and language patterns.

This year's bee had a record 515 participants, 16 of whom advanced to Thursday night's ESPN-televised finals. Spellers who've made deep runs at previous bees have loud cheering sections from friends they've made over years of spelling at the highest level.