Bursting into tears, eighth-grader Anurag Kashyap of California became the U.S. spelling champ Thursday, beating 272 other spellers in a tough two days of competition. He said he felt “just pure happiness.”
Anurag, 13, of Poway clinched “appoggiatura,” a melodic tone, to take home some $30,000 in prizes. He won in the 19th round of the 78th Annual National Scripps Spelling Bee.
Anurag, a straight-A middle-school student whose favorite subject is science, tied for 47th in last year’s spelling bee. That experience “helped me to know what I should study to ... like, win this thing,” he said afterward, repeatedly hiding his face behind his cardboard number.
Tied for second place were 11-year-old Samir Patel, who is home-schooled in Colleyville, Texas, and Aliya Deri, 13, a Pleasanton, Calif., student.
Aliya was tripped up in the 18th round by “trouvaille,” meaning windfall. Just after, Patel fell to “Roscian,” meaning skilled in acting. Two years ago, when Samir tied for third place, bee winner Sai Gunturi said he would be a force to be reckoned with in future contests.
As the ranks narrowed earlier in the day, sixth-grader Evan O’Dorney smiled widely and clapped for himself after he spelled “insessorial” Thursday to keep his hopes alive in the national spelling bee.
The word, which refers to birds that perch, allowed the San Ramon, Calif., student to cling to his spot going into the sixth round.
Most of the contestants at the bee’s start were from the United States and its territories, but 14 were foreign students. There were 11 from Canada and one each from the Bahamas, Jamaica and New Zealand.
Each speller wins at least $50. The first-place winner gets $28,000 in cash, scholarships and bonds, plus books from Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s about $10,000 more than in previous years.
The contest is administered by E.W. Scripps Co. The youngsters all won local contests sponsored by newspapers.