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Ranked third in Spelling Bee, Indian-American student determined to come back next year for top spot

Representing the Carolina Panthers at the Scripps National Spelling Bee held here on Thursday, Ananya Prassanna made it to the finals of the prestigious competition and eventually ranked third in her third attempt.
Last Updated : 02 June 2024, 04:23 IST
Last Updated : 02 June 2024, 04:23 IST

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Washington: Ananya Prassanna, the Indian-American seventh-grader who ranked third in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, says she is determined to return next year for the prestigious annual competition and lift the championship trophy.

“Giving up doesn't really make sense to me because why give up when you always have another chance? So I'm definitely probably going to come back next year,” the 13-year-old from Apex, North Carolina, told PTI in an interview.

Representing the Carolina Panthers at the Scripps National Spelling Bee held here on Thursday, Ananya made it to the finals of the prestigious competition and eventually ranked third in her third attempt.

She previously competed in 2022, when she tied for 49th place and in 2023 when she tied for 74th place.

A seventh grader, Ananya views this with pride and a determination to climb even higher in the future.

Ananya said her spelling bee journey began in second grade when she participated in a spelling bee organised by the North South Foundation -- a non-profit organisation.

''I just studied the list and nothing else, and I got second place,'' she recounted.

Encouraged by this early success, her parents supported her continued participation in spelling bees.

By third grade, Ananya’s talents were evident as she won her classroom and school bees.

However, her journey was briefly interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing further participation. Undeterred, she returned in fifth grade to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the first time, where she thrived on camaraderie and connection with fellow spellers.

“This year, I actually decided to put in way much more effort, and I started staying up late and completing more sets and studying more lists, and I feel like that hard work has definitely paid off and gotten me to third place,” she said in response to a question.

She credited much of her success to the support and encouragement of her parents.

Her father, a software engineer, not only handled travel expenses but also prepared word lists, instilled confidence in her.

''On that day, he said, 'Ananya, you’re going to go to finals,' and that’s what happened,'' she shared.

Her mother’s dedication was equally remarkable, often working twice as hard to ensure Ananya had everything she needed to succeed, she said.

When asked for advice to aspiring spellers, Ananya emphasised the importance of participating in school spelling bees to gauge one’s skills and the significance of studying lists and reading extensively.

She also recommended finding a coach for serious contenders, as her coach provided crucial support and confidence during challenging times.

Ananya’s approach to learning words is methodical and immersive.

She engages in ''dictionary diving,'' exploring hard words and studying their roots and rules rather than relying solely on memorisation.

''Understanding how words are formed gives you a higher success rate than just memorising them,'' she explained.

Reflecting on her toughest moment in the competition, Ananya recalled spelling ''tennesi,'' a word even the champion admitted he did not know.

Despite the pressure and a ticking clock, she trusted her subconscious memory and spelt the word correctly, earning significant respect from her peers and the judges, Ananya said.

Bruhat Soma, a 12-year-old Indian-American seventh-grade student from Florida, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, earning more than $50,000 in cash and other prizes.

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Published 02 June 2024, 04:23 IST

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