This past weekend, spellers upon spellers traveled from all over the United States and China to Riverside, California, to compete in the Spelling Bee of China's NASCC (North America Spelling Champion Challenge), and it turned out to be(e) quite an impressive show of talent and word knowledge.
The bee began on Saturday, although many of the spellers had already been there since the beginning of the week for a "spelling camp" involving not only spelling classes but other activities as well. Only the preliminary rounds, for which I had the honor of being a judge, took place on Saturday, narrowing the spellers in each of three age groups to only ten finalists. The next day, the competition got rapidly more intense in the finals for each age group; the words moved off of the study list before the championship finalists from each group could be declared. The finals for the 7th and 8th grade group culminated in a duel between Shourav Dasari and Rohan Rajeev, Scripps National Spelling Bee 4th and 2nd place finishers (respectively), in which they were declared co-champions.
Once the championship finalists from each group were declared, it was time for all of them to compete together, regardless of age group. Although the first three rounds were perfect and thus held no eliminations, spellers began missing in Round 4. The first elimination occurred when a speller began "cynology" (the scientific study of dogs) with an errant "s" instead of a correct "c." However, increasing eliminations did not stop the finals from being a tense 18-round spectacle. When 6 of the 11 finalists were left, it seemed like it was going to be a very long time until a winner was declared. However, a killer round was in store, eliminating three (Alex Iyer, Rohan Rajeev, and Rutvik Gandhasri) all at once with the mind-boggling words "tradescantia," "languedocian," and "phiz." This left Cameron Keith, Shruthika Padhy, and Shourav Dasari. Cameron was eliminated in the next round by "auximone," leaving Shourav and Shruthika to duel for the trophy. The two went back and forth for five rounds before Shruthika spelled "glycocoll" with one too few L's, and Shourav had the opportunity to win. His anticipated championship word? Anisakiasis, a type of intestinal infection that you can get from eating undercooked fish. He asked no questions, he didn't even repeat the word back to the judges. He rattled off the (correct) spelling in five seconds flat and left the stage without waiting for confirmation in another iconic mic drop that equaled (or maybe even topped) his rapid spelling of "Mogollon" at this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. The spelling of this word ultimately earned him a standing ovation, a massive trophy, and $2000. He will also travel to China in a few weeks to compete in GCSCC (the Global Champions Spelling Challenge of China).
After an amazing competition, I would like to say congratulations to all the spellers who competed, especially to the top 11 championship finalists--doing well in a bee is no easy feat!