It is National spelling bee time and the question, as the Scripps National Spelling Bee unfolds from May 26 at the Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, DC, is will history be repeated and will there be a third back-to-back taking of title by an Indian-American after Samir Mishra took last year's championship.
To find the answer all eyes will probably be on Siddharth Chand of Beverly Hills, Michigan and Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas. They were among some 35 Indian-American and other South Asian students moved to the finals where a record 293 spellers will compete for the championship.
Chand finished second last year and will be aiming for the top prize this year and so will be Sivashankar who finished among the top ten for the last three years, including tying for the fourth place last year.
There also are other finals veterans like Vaibhav S Vavilala of Carmel, Indiana who is participating in the finals for the fourth time, Aishwarya Eshwar Pastapur of Chatham, Illinois, Avvinash Radakrishnan of Merrimack, New Hampshire, Akshay Krishna Raghuram of Amarillo, Texas and Mouctika L Paluri of Carrollton, Texas , who are returning for the third time, and Rahul Ramesh Malayappan of Danbury, Connecticut who is competing for the second time.
Starting with Balu Natarajan in 1985 and including last year's title holder Mishra, eight Indian Americans had won the title. Among them, back-to-back title winners were Nupur Lala and George Abraham Thampy in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and Pratyush Buddiga and Sai R Gunturi and 2002 and 2003 respectively. Other winners were Rageshree Ramachandran in 1988 and Anurag Kashyap in 2005.
Other Indian American spellers who qualified for the nationals were Ramya Auroprem from San Jose, California, Sanjay Venkata Kottapalli from Clarendon Hills, Illinois, Vignessh Kumar from Moline, Illinois, Rohan Dasika from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Harshit Sarin from Baltimore, Maryland, Waleed I Khan from Saginaw, Michigan, Tussah Heera from Las Vegas, Nevada, Eesha Anagha Ramanujam from Ocean Township, New Jersey, Shyamala Ramakrishna from Skillman, New Jersey, Rajat Singh from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sriram Jagadeesh Hathwar from Big Flats, New York, Neetu Chandak from Seneca Falls, New York , Siraj Sindhu from Watertown, New York, Vaibhav Shrishail from Charlotte, North Carolina, Nivesh Varma from Angier, North Carolina, Shantanu Srivatsa from West Fargo, North Dakota, Anamika Veeramani from Parma Heights, Ohio, George M Jose from Wapakoneta, Ohio, Neel Mehta from Eagleville, Pennsylvania, Paro Sen from Avondale, Pennsylvania, Sukanya Roy from Newton Ransom, Pennsylvania, Tanay Patri from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Gina Pradipkumar Kapadia from Cordova, Tennessee, Aditya Chemudupaty from Pearland, Texas, Rohit Balachandar from San Antonio, Texas, Rahil M. Patel from Richlands, Virginia, and Sai S Nelanuthala from Bridgeport, West Virginia.
This year's spellers range in age from 9 to 15 years, but two-thirds are either 13 or 14 years old. For 118 spellers, this is their first time in the finals. English is not the first language of 33 spellers, and 117 spellers speak languages other than English.
The participants qualified for the national finals by virtue of their winning the regional bees. Scripps Bee is the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by the E W Scripps Company and 287 local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, its various territories, Department of Defense Schools in Europe and in Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, New Zealand, and South Korea.
The bee aims to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.