Lucky Gnome, Colors Favored by Spelling Bee Champs

No matter what the sport is, competitors often have some ritual that they believe helps make them just a little bit better.

It turns out competitors at the Scripps National Spelling Bee are no different, with the young competitors going through their own rituals before they start spelling.

"This is a mental rehearsal," said head judge Mary Brooks. "Going through the same sequence of steps to get where they can say, 'OK, now I'm ready to utter a letter.'"

She's been involved with the bee for 35 years and has seen all sorts of quirks, from kids who scream the letters or cover their mouth as they compete.

Competitors are permitted to ask questions about the words and receive a hint on the spelling, but for 11-year-old Matthew Evans, the ritual is a routine he simply was taught and adheres to firmly.

"I'm asking all the questions, because my mom told me to," Evans said.

Most of the young spellers carry just one item, such as a bracelet, a shell or a stuffed animal. But then there is 13-year-old Alex Benjamin, whose pockets are filled with trinkets.

Among the items in his pocket: lucky paper and a stuffed bee from his spelling coach.

"I have a gnome statue. It's a little odd but … gnomes are different, yeah, so it might help," Benjamin said.

His last lucky item is his wardrobe, as he wears the same outfit for every spelling bee.

Another competitor, Sameer Mishra, is worried she may not be wearking lucky colors. She chose green clothes for the competition and said her mom told her that's an unlucky color.

"She says yellow and red are really lucky and green isn't, but you know, it might not always work," Mishra said.

And with competition like this, why leave anything to chance?