Indian-Americans in eight co-champions of National Spell Bee

25 of the 50 finalists this year were of Indian origin


June 18, 2019

/ By / Kolkata

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2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee Co-Champions (coutesy: @ScrippsBee/twitter)

Indian-Americans have been winning every Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2008.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee 2019, in its unprecedented 92-year history saw eight co-champions for the top prize and seven among those children are of Indian-American origin. The competition has witnessed two co-winners in three years, but never were this number of contestants announced winners.

The eight co-winners are Rishik Gandhasri (13), Erin Howard (14), Saketh Sundar (13), Shruthika Padhy (13), Sohum Sukhatankar (13), Abhijay Kodali (12), Christopher Serrao (13) and Rohan Raja (13). After four hours and 17 rounds of words, eight participants still remained when pronouncer Jacques Bailly announced that all spellers still standing after the 20th round will be named co-champions. He called the participants to be “the most phenomenal assemblage of super-spellers” in the competition’s history. The eight remained standing strong against the volley of words even after round 20 and were declared as joint champions. “We’re throwing the dictionary at you and so far, you are showing the dictionary who is boss,” he added.

This year’s competition began with 562 spellers, aged 15 or younger but have not passed eighth grade, who made it to the national stage from all across the 50 states of US as well as several other countries like Bahamas, Canada, Germany, Japan and South Korea.

The champions

Rishik Gandhasri, a seventh-grader from Chaboya Middle School in San Jose, California claimed his win with the word “auslat”. Active in his school band and particularly fond of playing saxophone, Rishik said he wasn’t sure he could outlast the other spellers should the competition continue until one speller remained. But he knew he could correctly spell three more words.

Saketh Sundar, an eight-grader at Clarksville Middle School in Maryland, likes listening to TED talks in his free time. His final word was “bougainvillea” and had tied for the 19th position last year.

Two of the champions were from New Jersey- Shruthika Padhy of Cherry Hill and Christopher Serrao of Whitehouse Station. While Shruthika of Rosa International Middle School secured her win with the word “aiguillette”, Readington Middle School’s Christopher who loves to travel and try new foods had “cernuous” as his final word. Shruthika is not only great with words but also an athlete and played in this year’s National Indoor Tournament for field hockey.

Three of the champions were from Texas- Sohum Sukhatankar from Dallas, Rohan Raja from Irving and Abhijay Kodali from Flower Mound. While Sohum a seventh-grader at St Mark’s School loves folding origami which he learnt himself from YouTube and welcomed success with his final word “pendeloque”, another seventh-grader Rohan secured his position with the word “odylic”. Student at Coppell Middle School West, he loves superhero movies and anime and plays cricket and tennis. Abhijay, a sixth-grader at McKamy Middle School, had secured the third place in last year’s competition and enjoys watching Cartoon Network, sports and Harry Potter movies during study-breaks. His final word was “palama”.

The eighth co-champion is Erin Howard, an eight-grader at Mountain Gap P-8 School from Huntsville, Alabama, is the second Spelling Bee champion from the state. She proceeded to her win with the word “erysipelas”.

The eight co-champions won after five rounds and 47 consecutive words being spelled corrected. They will each receive the prize of USD 50,000.

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