The annual Scripps National Spelling Bee will not be held in 2020 due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the first time it has been canceled since World War II.
The next competition is set for June 1-3, 2021, and there are no plans to alter eligibility requirements, meaning eighth grade contestants this year will miss their final chance to compete in the national finals.
"Our hearts go out to the spellers who won't get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make," Paige Kimble, the spelling bee's executive director, said in a statement.
The spelling bee, an annual event since 1925, had previously only been canceled in 1943-45 due to World War II.
In 2019, the competition ended in an eight-way tie after organizers ran out of difficult words to challenge the finalists.
Scripps had originally announced late last month that the event would be postponed this year.
The organizers said on Tuesday that the more than 150 contestants who had already won their regional competitions would be recognized for qualifying for this year's national finals.
The annual competition has been held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., since 2011 and is typically broadcast on ESPN.