Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, has been declared winner of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Although Karthik, 14, didn’t win his regional spelling bee nor his county bee, he withstood the pressure of 18 rounds of back-to-back spelling in Thursday night’s finals at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md., where he correctly spelled “koinonia” (Christian fellowship or communion, with God or, more commonly, with fellow Christians).
“I knew how to spell it the moment I heard it,” Karthik exclaimed shortly after winning the competition.
The soft-spoken Karthik, who entered the competition through a newly-instituted “wild card” program, snared the first-place $40,000 cash prize from Scripps, as well as other perks including a $2,500 prize from Merriam-Webster and a trip to New York City to appear on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”
Second-place honors went to Naysa Modi,12, of Dallas, who learned that just one letter made the difference in her being awarded the grand prize. Instead, she took home a $30,000 cash prize after misspelling “Bewusstseinslage” — a German-derived word meaning “a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components” — for which she left out the second “s.”
Karthik, an 8th-grader who admitted not knowing about nine words in the finals, was complimentary of his final-round foe, calling Naysa “a really, really good speller.”
“She deserved the trophy as much as I did,” he said. “I got lucky.”
He added that having friends like Naysa in the competition helped.
“I guess [they] gave me a little more confidence,” Karthik said.
The field for this year’s bee, with 516 spellers ages 8 to 15 from the United States and several countries, was the largest in its 91-year history.
Washington Informer-sponsored spellers Noah Dooley, Robert Foster and Simon Kirschenbaum didn’t make it to the finals and neither were immediately available for comment.
However, as a first-time Scripps participant, 11-year-old Jah’Quane Graham from St. Croix, U.S Virgin Islands, also missed out competing in Thursday and Friday’s rounds. Yet, he smiled good-naturedly, saying he still enjoyed the participation.
“I was glad I got the chance to be in the national bee,” he said. “I practiced spelling a lot of words but didn’t get in the final rounds [Wednesday] which disqualified me from further participation. But I plan to keep entering until I can’t be in it anymore. Best of all, I got a free trip to Washington, D.C., and I can’t wait to see the White House.”