D.C. Student Shines in National Spelling Bee

Dorothy Rowley | 6/6/2012, 11:47 a.m.

Spelling Bee Director Paige Kimble won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1981. She said the competition helps students improve their spelling and increase their vocabulary. She also said that contrary to popular belief - students who are coached by their parents and other family members - don't know beforehand, the words they will be asked to spell.

"Once they get on stage, it's all spontaneous. The kids have no idea what words they will be given," said Kimble, who added that while on stage, the competitors get to practice confidence while developing poise.

"They become better communicators and they get to use words in ways that will help them to be successful," she said. "Many take their experiences on to careers in medicine, law, journalism - and occasionally like me, at running this year's event."

The spellers' favorite words included "serendipity," a happy accident or pleasant surprise and "humuhumunukunukuapuaa," Hawaii's official state fish.

About 84 percent of the spellers ranged in ages between 12 and 14, with 49 percent of them being boys and 51 percent girls. Like Tuli, many listed math as a favorite subject. Science was cited as the second most popular.

Meanwhile, this year's champion, Snigdha, appeared uncertain as she glanced sideways after spelling the word the pronouncer tossed at her.

Prior to the announcement that she had spelled the word "guetapens," a French word for ambush, correctly, there was a moment of dead silence before the applause began to slowly build. Then as streams of confetti began to fill the room, Snigdha's younger brother ran up on stage to hug her. For her efforts, Snigdha beat out eight other finalists to take home $30,000 in cash, a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship, $2,600 in reference books from the Encyclopedia Britannica and an online language course.

"I knew it. I'd seen it before," a smiling Snigdha said of the winning word. "I just wanted to ask everything I could before I started spelling."