Ever since their older brother competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee years ago, twin brothers Garrett and Pierce Bryner have dreamed of making it to the bee — together.
This year, they’ll see that dream become reality.
“It’s kind of historical, I guess you’d say,” said Garrett, who made it to the national bee — without his brother — last year.
Previously, twins would never have been able to make it to the bee together, as one would have always beaten the other out. But thanks to new qualifying rules put in place this year which incorporate a point system, two sets of twins are now going to be on the national stage for the first time in the spelling bee's 91-year history: the Bryner twins, and another set of twins from Mississippi.
Garrett’s brother Pierce will become the third sibling in the Bryner family to attend the bee.
Their mom, Liz Bryner, who has shepherded her kids through her share of bees, says that while the two will be nervous, for the parents, its on a whole other level.
“I think nothing compared to the Bee in terms of the stress level,” Liz said from her home in Utah. “If you look around at the parents they’re often more nervous than the kids. I think it’s really a nail-biting experience.”
Garret and Pierce say they can be competitive when it comes to studying.
"Sometimes the other one jumps in tries to spell the word before the other one,” Pierce said.
Ultimately they hope for the best for each other.
“I just cheer him on,” Pierce said.
They’ve been studying as much as they can, Liz said, but as eighth grade boys, surrounded by the rugged landscape of Utah, their attention span only lasts so long before they want to get back outside and hop on their bikes.
“I don’t think we’ve ever gone longer than probably 90 minutes at a time,” she said. “That’s about as long as anyone’s been willing to do.”
“To know that they can both understand what it’s like to be there at the national bee to compete, and it’ll be something they share,” she said. “The fact that they can share this experience is just incredible as a mom.”
ESPN, which broadcasts the bee, has seen viewership numbers for the annual contest that have hovered around one million people. The twins’ trick to calm their nerves?
“Focus more on the words than the audience,” Garret said with a smile.
Editor’s note: This publication is owned by the E.W. Scripps Company which sponsors the Scripps National Spelling Bee.