Teen spells knaidel’ to win national bee
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- For Arvind Mahankali, 2013 finally breaks the German curse.
The 13-year-old from Bayside Hills, N.Y. overcame past difficulties, correctly spelling "knaidel" to become the champion of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
"I (think) the German curse has turned into a German blessing," Arvind said immediately after his victory.
Arvind came in third place in the past two national bees. In some of his previous trips, the German language sent him home early. After professing his fear of the "curse" earlier in the night, the crowd roared when he successfully spelled "dehnstufe" in the sixth round.
As the champion, Arvind receives a $30,000 cash prize and the massive champion's trophy. Merriam-Webster also provided a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a complete reference library. Encyclopedia Britannica chipped in $2,000 of reference work and a three-year membership to its online edition.
Arvind won the bee in the 15th round, defeating the 11 other finalists. Pranav Simakumar, a 13-year-old from Tower Lakes, Ill. came in second after "cyanophycean" proved too difficult. It was Arvind's fourth trip to the bee and Pranav's third: with four other finalists also making their four trips to the national event, the last crop of spellers was very experienced.
Sriram Hathwar credited his mom for his spelling success. The 13-year-old from Painted Post, N.Y. came in third, misspelling "ptyalagogue."
Amber Born wants to be a comedian when she grows up. The 14-year-old from Massachusetts had the crowd laughing up until the end, when she correctly guessed she had misspelled hallali. The two-time contestant came in fourth.
Vanya Shivashankar, younger sister of 2009 champion Kavya, didn't recognize her fifth-round word "zenaida." A fan-favorite and Kansas native, she missed the word to come in sixth place.
The ever-demonstrative Vismaya Kharkar covered her eyes when the words were too tough. Paryphodrome proved too much, but the 14-year-old from Utah smiled and said she had learned a great deal from her experience. She also came in sixth place.
Symamantak Payra, 12, of Friendswood, Texas, was the only speller making his first appearance at the national bee. He tied for ninth place, falling victim to "cipollino" in the fourth round.
Chetan Reddy, 13, of Plano, Texas also came in ninth place, misspelling "kaburi" in the fourth round. "Melocoton" stumped four-time national bee contestant Grace Remmer, 14, of St. Augustine, Fla. in the fourth round.
Christal Schermeister, 13, of Pembroke Pines, Fla. exited in the second round, misspelling "doryline." Fellow Floridian Nikitha Chandran, 13, was the first finalist out of the bee, missing "pathognomonic" in the first round
The field started with 281 competitors from all over the world. That number decreased gradually during the first two oral rounds, with 240 correctly spelling both of their words. The results of a computerized spelling and vocabulary test knocked out most, reducing the number of competitors to 42.
From there, 10 competitors tripped up in the first oral portion of thee semifinals. The last segment of the semifinals ushered out another 14 spellers.
The 11 finalists were chosen from the eligible 18 based on their scores from another computer-based spelling and vocabulary test.
Most spellers this year were between the ages of 12 and 14. Almost half were in eighth grade, and more than 63 percent attend public schools. Almost a quarter of the students attended private or parochial schools. Another 25 are home schooled.
Each of the oral rounds aired on different ESPN channels. Its the 20th year the station has broadcast the event; Executive Director Paige Kimble said earlier in the week most contestants say being on live TV was their favorite part of the experience.
Lauren Coccari of Sissonville and her three fellow West Virginia spellers each spelled their words correctly in the first two oral rounds, but didn't score well enough on the first computer test to advance.
Lauren attended the finals with her parents, Gene and Stephanie. Gene said the family spent Thursday touring Washington and said they thoroughly enjoyed their trip.
Lauren's appearance in the national bee was sponsored by the Gazette-Mail, the West Virginia Automobile and Truck Dealers Association and the College Foundation of West Virginia, or cfwv.com
In addition to the all-expense-paid trip to the nation's capital, she won a $2,500 college savings account from the state treasurer's SMART529 program.