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N.Y. teen Arvind Mahankali wins the national spelling bee with ‘knaidel’
Maybe it’s the fourth time that’s the charm, perhaps it’s what 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali calls the “German blessing,” or it could just be that the eighth-grader just really knows how to spell. But whatever it was, late Thursday night the teen from Bayside Hills, N.Y., was crowned the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion.
Amid falling confetti and whoops and cheers from the crowd, Arvind lifted the golden trophy above his head, finally cracking a smile after a grueling 2 hours and 30 minutes of spelling.
“I can’t even talk,” the fan favorite uttered after correctly spelling “knaidel.” “This means I’m retiring on a good note.”
Since 2010, when Arvind made his first appearance at the national level bee, the charismatic teenager has captured the affection of spelling fans. This was the last year he was eligible to compete in the bee. The past two years he’s placed third, and historically he’s been tripped up on German-derived words.
So when the judges announced that the final word to clinch the title was a German-derived word for a type of dumpling, both Arvind and the audience groaned good-naturedly. But it was all for nothing, as Arvind confidently spelled out k-n-a-i-d-e-l.
“The German curse turned into a German blessing,” the young man said, confetti caught in his hair, his brown eyes wide behind his glasses.
The final rounds were a full two hours before the championship round, when a special 25-word list was used to cull the three competitors to one final victor.
Among the words doled out to the spellers were “trichocercous,” which means having a spiny tail; “panjandrum,” another name for a pretentious official; and “tournedos,” a word common on restaurant menus which means a small filet of beef
One of the favorites to win, Vanya Shivashankar, was ousted after misspelling “zenaida,” a type of bird. Her sister won in 2009. The 11-year-old from Kansas still has two more years to try for the title.
Vismaya Kharkar was finally stumped by “paryphodrome,” which relates to the veins on a leaf. Throughout the finals she seemed to panic when spelling a word but made it through four rounds before hearing the bell that meant she had made a mistake and was eliminated. She groaned “no,” when she heard the sound but said “thank you” during the audience applause.
Last girl standing Amber Born, 14, of Marblehead, Mass., was buzzed for incorrectly spelling “hallali,” a word for a huntsman’s bugle call. By the time she’d finished spelling it her way, she already knew “that’s not right.”
The final round was the culmination of three days of spelling.
Earlier this week, 281 spellers representing their counties and states headed to Oxon Hill, where their numbers were winnowed down to 42 semifinalists and in turn, a final 11 children heading into a prime-time television event hoping to be the next name engraved on the bee’s gold trophy cup.
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About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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