Twelve-Year-Old Indian-American Wins 90th Scripps Spelling Bee Competition

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Ananya Vinay, a 12-year-old Californian, today won the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition after a tense final in Washington. For her victory, the youngster took home a $40,000 cash prize.

After twelve hours of juggling and playing with A-B-C-D and A-E-I-O-U, the bright young sixth-grader disarmed a rival eighth-grader from Oklahoma, Rohan Rajeev, 14, by spelling “marocain,” which is a dress fabric made of warp of silk or rayon and a filling of other yarns, correctly.

The rivals had correctly spelled words, including “cheiropompholyx,” “urchkomponiert,” and “tchefuncte,” as each waited for the other to falter. Vinay got a boost when Rajeev spelled the seemingly easy, but obscure word “marram” wrong. The meaning for “marram” is beach grass in Scandinavia. Ananya calmly nailed two words in a row, ending on “marocain,” reported The Washington Post.

For the first time since 2013, the bee finally declared a sole champion. After three straight years of ties, the tiebreaker round had been introduced this year. Even as it looked like the tiebreaker would need to come into play, Ananya defeated Rohan after battling for 21 out of the allotted 25 championship rounds.

Ananya is the 13th consecutive Indian-American to win the bee and the 18th of the past 22 winners with Indian heritage; a run that began in 1999 with Nupur Lala’s victory, which was featured in the documentary “Spellbound.” Like most of her predecessors, she honed her craft in highly competitive national bees that are limited to Indian-Americans; the North South Foundation and the South Asian Spelling Bee. She didn’t, however, win either one.