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14 Indian-American kids in 'Spelling Bee' semis

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
Last updated on: May 28, 2009 16:17 IST
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Continuing their magnificent run at the national level, 14 Indian-Americans have made it to the penultimate round of the US 'Spelling Bee' competition, constituting nearly 35 per cent of this year's semi-finalists.

As many as 14 of the 41 young spelling wizards -- who made it to the semi final of the Scripps national Spelling Bee champion's trophy -- are Indian Americans, raising expectations that the top prize would yet again be bagged by one of them.

Prominent among those who made it to the semi finals of the prestigious tournament are Satish Chand, 13, who came out second in last year's finals; three time top 10 finisher Kavya Shivashankar, 13, and Sriram Hathwar who at nine is the bee's youngest contestant for the second consecutive year.

The finals of the national spectacle, to be held in Washington on Thursday night, would be telecast live across America.

Last year's championship was won by 13 year-old Sameer Mishra from Lafayette in Indiana. Mishra, who won the trophy participating for the first time in the spelling bee competition, took home a cash prize of $35,000.

The word that Mishra spelled to finally win the competition was 'guerdon', a term that means something that one has earned or gained.

Indian-American kids have dominated the competition for the last few years, impressing the audience with their spelling prowess.

Among the semi-finalists are Ramya Auroprem, a student of French from San Jose California, who informally teaches Tamil to the children in her neighbourhood.

A voracious reader and dedicated student, Aishwarya Pastapur, the Springfield Illinois team captain, was instrumental in leading her Mathcounts team to the state-level by winning first place at the county two years in a row.

Aishwarya represented the Topeka Journal in the 2006 and 2007 national finals of the competition.

Eighth grader Vaibhav Vavilala from Indianapolis, participated in the 2005, 2007, and 2008 national finals, and stood tied for 17th place last year. His brother, Vikas also participated in the 2006 national finals.

Kavya Shivashankar from Olathe Kansas names Nupur Lala, the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, as her role model and the inspiration for her spelling career.

She participated in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 national finals, tying for the 10th, 8th, and 4th place, respectively. An avid philatelist and lover of Mathematics and Science, Sidharth Chand from Bloomfield Michigan was placed second in the 2008 national finals.

Avvinash Radakrishnan is making his third appearance in the national finals after his unsuccessful bids in 2006 and 2008. Passionate about sports, he plays basketball, football, and baseball and enjoys taking part in a good kickball game.

Meanwhile, third grader, Sriram Hathwar, nine, will again bid for the trophy after participating in the 2008 finals as the youngest contestant in the history of the event.

From painted Post, New York, Sriram loves the Harry Potter series or watching Tiger Woods on the putting green. Making her third consecutive appearance in the national finals, Neetu Chandak, from Seneca Falls, New York excels in mathematics and music.

A red belt in Tae Kwon Do, Siraj Sindhu from Watertown New York is active in his school's history club and is the treasurer of its student council.

Ohio's Anamika Veeramani, has won several regional and national awards in Science, Maths, Essay-writing, and Vocabulary contests.

Meanwhile Sukanya Roy from South Abington Pennsylvania, who holds an orange belt in karate, hopes to become an author.

Following his sister's footsteps who participated in the 2005 and 2008 national finals, Akshay Raghuram from Amarillo Texas has participated in state Mathcounts and Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering competitions.

Tied for 25th place last year, Mouctika Paluri from Carrollton Texas enjoys performing Kuchipudi Indian dance, which she has been studying for two years.

A flutist in his school's wind ensemble, Aditya Chemudupaty credits his "reading habit" for his spelling skills.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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