This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend and volunteer at the Geospell Academic Olympiad in Dallas, Texas. Hosted by Geospell’s founder Vijay Reddy, the Olympiad was a two-day event with ten different subjects in which students could compete: math, science, geography, spelling, vocabulary, logical reasoning, technology, history, and general knowledge. The highlight of all these was, of course, the spelling bee.

The spelling bee was divided into a junior group for grades K-3rd, and a senior group for grades 4th-12th (though no high schoolers competed this year). Within those two categories, the spellers took a 25-word written test to determine placement within the spellers’ respective grades and then went on to spell on-stage. The junior bee had 16 participants, and they battled for the 1st place title for 14 rounds. Sriya Gomatam emerged the champion, spelling the word obstinate to win.

The senior bee had 13 participants, and after braving the difficult written test, the senior spellers took the stage. Among them were Naysa Modi, a SCRIPPS national finalist in 2017, and Sohum Sukhatankar, also a SCRIPPS finalist and 2017 NSF senior spelling bee champion. Nairit Sarkar, Karthik Nemmani and Abhijay Kodali all showcased their spelling prowess previously in Dallas area bees. The numbers shrank gradually over the first 10 or 11 rounds, and then with an onslaught of harder words, all but Abhijay misspelled. He claimed the title of champion by spelling the word schmierkase, another name for cottage cheese. Additional rounds broke the tie for second place between Sohum, Karthik and Nairit. The final results were: Abhijay in first place, Karthik second, Nairit third, and Sohum fourth.

During the awards ceremony, first, second, and third place medals were presented for each grade level in every event. Probably my favorite part of the Geospell Academic Olympiad was watching all the competitors, especially the younger ones, walk around with three or four medals each around their necks, clinking as they moved. From the viewpoint of a little kid, winning medals is encouraging. I saw all the competitors talking and laughing and making friends - and they were all excited about learning. One of the competitors even had a birthday on the second day of competition, and the organizers bought a cake for him and all the other children to celebrate. I don’t think I saw one unhappy face at the end of the day. The decathlon was a great way for the students to gain experience and realize that academic competition is fun and immensely rewarding.

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