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12-Year-Old Indian-American Wins Prestigious National Spelling Bee in the US

Photo : AP

Washington: Bruhat Soma, a 12-year-old Indian-American seventh-grade student from Florida, emerged victorious in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday. Bruhat's win earned him more than $50,000 in cash and other prizes, solidifying the continued dominance of Indian-American students in this prestigious competition.

The contest concluded with an intense tiebreaker round, where Bruhat correctly spelled 29 words in 90 seconds. His opponent, Faizan Zaki, managed to spell 20 words correctly in the same time. Bruhat's championship word was “abseil,” defined as “descent in mountaineering by means of a rope looped over a projection above.” Bruhat's flawless performance in the tiebreaker, where he attempted 30 words, made it clear he was unbeatable. Faizan, on the other hand, attempted 25 words but misspelled four.

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The organizers praised Bruhat, stating, “Bruhat Soma rules the word! The Champion of the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee! The boy with the unbelievable memory didn't miss a word all week and takes home the Scripps Cup!” They also highlighted that Bruhat's performance broke the standing spell-off record set by Harini Logan in 2022, who had spelled 22 out of 26 words correctly.

Corrie Loeffler, executive director of the Bee, commended both finalists, saying, “As the competition progressed, it was clear that Faizan and Bruhat – our final two spellers – showed up tonight ready to take down the dictionary. Together, they were a powerful match.” The spell-off allowed these stellar spellers to showcase their skills further, with each having 90 seconds to spell as many words as they could from a predetermined list while the other was sequestered.

Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E W Scripps Company, presented Bruhat with the championship trophy. Symson remarked, “At just 12 years old, Bruhat impressed with his display of knowledge and composure.”

This was Bruhat's third time participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In 2023, he tied for 74th place, and in 2022, he tied for 163rd place. Coached by 16-year-old former speller Sam Evans, Bruhat had previously won the Words of Wisdom Bee and SpellPundit Bee before arriving in Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Bruhat's father, Srinivas Soma, is originally from Nalgonda in Telangana.

The 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee had eight finalists, five of whom were Indian-Americans: Rishabh Saha, 14, and Shrey Parikh, 12, from California; Aditi Muthukumar, 13, from Colorado; and Ananya Rao Prassanna, 13, from North Carolina. Faizan Zaki, the runner-up, received $25,000, while Shrey Parikh and Ananya Prassanna, who tied for third place, each received $12,500.

Indian-American Dev Shah won last year's Bee by correctly spelling "psammophile," and Harini Logan was the 2022 champion. The Scripps National Spelling Bee, launched in 1925, is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program. It is a high-profile, high-pressure endurance test where spellers spend months preparing. The Bee was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, there were eight co-champions, seven of whom were Indian-Americans. Since 1999, twenty-nine Indian-Americans have emerged as champions.

This year, 245 spellers participated in the competition, with 65 having previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Notably, 24 spellers, mostly Indian-Americans, had relatives who had participated in a combined 40 Scripps National Spelling Bees. Four 2023 finalists advanced to the 2024 competition: Sarah Fernandes (tied for 10th place), Aryan Khedkar (tied for fifth), Tarini Nandakumar (finished ninth), and Shradha Rachamreddy (tied for third). Additionally, Aliyah Alpert and Kirsten Santos, who were finalists in 2022, competed again this year. Indian-American Akash Vukoti has qualified for a record six finals between 2016 and 2023.

May 31, 2024 10:35 a.m. 459

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