Stuti Mishra of West Melbourne competed in the final round against eventual champion Snigdha Nandipati of California. Stuti's final word was 'schwarmerei,' meaning excessive unbridled enthusiasm.
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. (Florida Today) - With an infectious smile and a killer instinct for words, Stuti Mishra simply couldn't be stopped. At least it seemed that way Thursday night as the West Melbourne teen plowed her way through the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
But one letter tripped up the eighth-grader, and she ended her journey as runner-up in a thrilling contest for the holy grail of academic competitions.
After conquering head-scratchers like "prolegomenon" and "chionablepsia" earlier in the finals, Stuti, 14, stumbled in Round 12 over "schwarmerei," meaning excessive unbridled enthusiasm or attachment. She spelled it: "s-c-h-w-e-r-m-e-r-e-i."
Snigdha Nandipati of California won the championship in Round 13 by acing "guetapens," meaning an ambush.
It was a tense back-and-forth as both spellers kept the competition going. Stuti air-typed her letters, a trick that she said helps her visualize words.
While Snigdha, 14, basked in the glow of victory and cradled the championship trophy, Stuti's father, Tapas Mishra, comforted his disappointed daughter. He tenderly kissed her temple and rubbed her hands, reminding her of how far she had come, considering she had only seriously studied spelling since sixth grade. The competition is open to students beginning in second grade and many finalists have competed for several years.
"I'm extremely proud of how well she did, what she accomplished," Tapas Mishra said as well-wishers clustered around Stuti, some asking for her autograph. This was her last bee because high-schoolers aren't eligible.
As runner-up, Stuti will get $12,500 and other prizes. Snigdha won $35,000 and other prizes for being the champion.
Stuti's pursuit of the spelling prize began a year ago in a suburban Maryland hotel, when she came within one misspelled word of the championship round.
Then 13 years old and in seventh grade, Stuti devoted herself to winning in 2012, her last year of eligibility. She read Webster's Third International Dictionary cover to cover. Twice.
All that hard work paid off Thursday, when the Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy eighth-grader became one of just nine spellers - and the only one from Florida - to make the finals, which was broadcast live on ESPN.
"She notched up her preparation," Tapas said. "I had a feeling she would make it to the finals."
On the way to the finalists' stage, Stuti, 14, first had to win her local competition, just like the other 277 spellers who made it to the national bee. On Tuesday, she scored 23 out of a possible 25 on the bee's written test. On stage Wednesday, she correctly spelled "kyoodle," which means to make loud, useless noises, and "echt," which means genuine. That got her into the semifinals Thursday morning.
In Round 4, she aced "endergonic," an adjective that means requiring work, as her fellow semifinalists looked on from the stage at the National Harbor hotel ballroom overlooking the Potomac River. In Round 5, she correctly spelled "fjeld," which refers to a barren plateau of Scandinavian upland. Then in Round 6, when others were dropping, she advanced on "capharnaum," a noun defined as a confused jumble.
Asked if she'd seen any of the three words before, she said, "Yeah, I knew them," managing to sound confident but not cocky.
Of the 113 words given to the 50 semifinalists, Stuti said she knew all but two. And she said she probably could have nailed those through careful deduction.
Nancy Giangrisostomi, the head of Holy Trinity's upper school, flew up to watch Stuti compete. She said Stuti isn't just smart but also works hard and demonstrates great character.
"She really represents what our school is all about," she said.
This year's Scripps National Spelling Bee began with 278 spellers. Participants included the youngest recorded speller ever to compete in the national bee - 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Woodbridge, Va., who didn't make the semifinals - and two spellers making their fifth appearance.
Ledyard King, Florida Today