2017 was one of the toughest years the spelling bee world has seen so far. Competition was fierce, as many spellers who had been rising through the ranks had reached their final year of eligibility, and all looked to seize the title of national champion. With the introduction of the tiebreaker test at the SCRIPPS National Spelling Bee, the stakes rose even higher. Even if two or three spellers exhausted all the championship words and weathered 25 grueling rounds of back and forth spelling, the champion among them had to prove himself adept in both spelling and vocabulary. There was no need for the test this year, but as the speller evolves, the test will likely become the means of determining a champion in the future.
Many noteworthy spellers aged out this year; among them many who had become favorites of the spelling bee community. Tejas Muthusamy, a SCRIPPS finalist since 2014, tied for fifth place at the national bee this year, his highest finish. Siyona Mishra, after an impressive victory at the 2016 South Asian Spelling Bee, was taken out by the tough eponymous word corriedale in the morning finals. Shourav Dasari wowed the crowd with his incredibly fast spelling of words at several bees; the concept of spelling a word without asking for information is now dubbed “mogolloning” due to Shourav’s impressive feat on the SCRIPPS stage. He placed fourth at the SCRIPPS National Spelling Bee and went on to win the North American Spelling Champion Challenge as well as the Spelling Bee of China. Rutvik Gandhasri, a top finisher at the SCRIPPS bee in 2016, was eliminated by the tricky word auteur in the SCRIPPS bee this year, spelling its near homonym hauteur by mistake. He also tied for fourth at the North American Spelling Champion Challenge (NASCC). Another finalist from 2016, Sreeniketh Vogoti, made the SCRIPPS finals once more, but was downed by the French word clafouti. Undeterred, he went on to place second at the South Asian Spelling Bee nationals and second at the NSF senior spelling bee. Alex Iyer, a two-time SCRIPPS national finalist, tied for 7th at SCRIPPS this year, improving upon his previous finish, and placed T-4th at the NASCC.
Other spellers such as Mira Dedhi, Shrinidhi Gopal, Rohan Rajeev, and Raksheet Kota demonstrated their orthographic prowess in the finals on the SCRIPPS national stage for the first time in their final year. Rohan also went on to place T-4th at the NASCC. And who could forget the incredible Ananya Vinay, 2017 SCRIPPS National Spelling Bee champion, who rose from 172nd place to 1st in one year of intense preparation. A masterful speller who claimed she knew every word asked on the national stage, Ananya held her own in a 20-round duel against Rohan Rajeev that lasted deep into the night. An embodiment of focus, determination, and perseverance, she is a champion for every aspiring speller to look up to.
The minor-league bees, South Asian Spelling Bee and the North South Foundation bee, crowned some younger champions this year. Sravanth Malla, a seventh grader, was named champion of the South Asian Spelling Bee after spelling Chytridiales, the name of an order of aquatic fungi. At the North South Foundation bee last weekend, many of the experienced spellers were taken out by a number of tricky words that played off of their greater knowledge of roots and patterns to cause them to assume incorrectly about certain spellings. One young speller, Sohum Sukhatankar, a fifth grader, proved himself to be one to watch for in future bees after winning the senior spelling bee with the word gruppetto.
Congratulations to all the spellers who competed this year, and to those aging out, good luck in whatever new adventures and journeys you decide to embark on. The bee wouldn’t be the same without each and every speller who participated. With the departure of many skilled spellers, a huge hole is left in the spelling bee field, and an opportunity for younger spellers to rise and take the trophy will open up. The 2018 spelling bees will be interesting to watch.