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Indian American girl becomes Spelling Bee champion

Last updated on: June 5, 2010 11:12 IST

Indian American girl becomes Spelling Bee champion



Anamika Veeramani, 14, an eighth grader from Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights, Ohio won the National Spelling Bee on Friday.

Shantanu S Srivatsa, 13, an eighth grader from Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, North Dakota lost to Anamika in the last round.

This is the third consecutive year an Indian American has won the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Last year, Kavya Shivasankar of Kansas had won the contest while in 2008, Sameer Mishra became the champion.

Other Indian American winners in the past are: Anurag Kashyap (2005); Sai R Gunturi (2003); Pratyush Buddiga (2002); George Abraham Thampy (2000); Nupur Lala (1999); Rageshree Ramachandran (1988) and Balu Natarajan (1985).

Anamika spelt a number of tough words correctly in the first round including nahcolitenahcolite, epiphysisepiphysis, juvia and stromuhr

"I am very, very happy to win the spelling bee," she said immediately after her victory.

Aditya Chemudupaty, 13, an eighth grader from Nolan Ryan Junior High School in Pearland, Texas also reached the finals, but lost in the first round.

Text: George Jospeh

Image: Anamika Veeramani
Photographs: Courtesy:

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Any of the 470,000 words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is fair game during the competition. Each speller is allowed two minutes to give the final answer.

A total of 273 students participated in the preliminary rounds. They were required to spell 25 words correctly. The final event was broadcast live on ABC.

More than 15 Indian Americans students made it to the semi finals.

The winner will receive $30,000, among other prizes, while the contestant in the second place will get $12,500 and the third place winner will get $7,500.

Anamika tied for the fifth place in last year's Scripps National Spelling Bee. She was eliminated when she failed to correctly spell the word fackeltanz -- a German medieval dance.

The North Royalton resident is the daughter of Alagaiya and Malar Veeramani.

Anamika's passions include reading, writing, photography and painting. She takes private lessons in Indian classical dance and golf. She has been studying Indian classical music for eight years, and has been playing the violin for six years. Anamika is a member of her school's orchestra and she also enjoys swimming.

She is very interested in science and has participated in science fairs at which her research projects have earned several awards. Anamika aspires to become a cardiovascular surgeon, an author and a screenwriter.

She was sponsored by The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.

Anamika's coach and teacher Janice Hearst has been working with her since the fourth grade. "Anamika is a great speller because she has a passion for words. This passion developed because she loves to read. She is an avid reader and reads far above her grade level," Hearst told the local media earlier.

"New words intrigue her. She looks them up to better understand what she is reading. She also works new words into her vocabulary. Somewhere along the line, she became interested in the etymology -- the origin of words. It all helps her with spelling so well," she said.

Her brother, Ashwin, has also become a phenomenal speller, according to Hearst. Ashwin, a fourth-grader, won the first place in this year's inaugural tournament.

"I really like to read, and I love to write. I started reading Harry Potter books when I was 5 or 6 years old. My mother would read them to me before that. I like science fiction and fantasy books, so I pick up a lot of words from them," Anamika told a daily.

An avid golfer, Anamika will be attending Laurel School in the fall.

Image: Anamika and Shantanu at the event
Photographs: Courtesy:
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This is Shantanu's third consecutive appearance at the Spelling Bee, and his second time representing the state of North Dakota.

He was sponsored by the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, Bismarck,
North Dakota.

Shantanu tries to excel in everything he tries. He learned early on that while winning is enjoyable, participation is even more satisfying.

His favorite subject is math, and he has represented his school at the regional and state mathematics competitions.

Shantanu has been playing the piano for six years. Some of his hobbies include collecting ancient coins, swimming and playing tennis.

Shantanu made it through the first three rounds held on Wednesday and Thursday after a written exam and correctly spelling traumatropism and floribunda onstage, according to the Scripps website.

Another Indian American contestant, Aditya, spelt engiseismology wrong. He had tied for 12th place in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was his second appearance at the event.

Image: Shantanu S Srivatsa
Photographs: Courtesy:
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