Missouri, Kansas students co-winners of National Spelling Bee

Fri May 29, 2015 5:22am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Ian Simpson

OXON HILL, Md. (Reuters) - Eighth-graders Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Missouri, and Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, were co-winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday.

Gokul ended a tense standoff before a packed hotel ballroom and an ESPN television audience by spelling "nunatak," an Inuit word for an exposed ridge in a glacier.

He stood with hands at his side when pronouncer Jacques Bailly told him that if he spelled the word correctly, he and Vanya would share the title. He then raced through the correct spelling, and the hotel ballroom erupted in cheers.

"This is the culmination of six years of work. I'm finally happy to have success," said Gokul, 14, after he and Vanya raised the championship trophy.

Their win was the eighth in a row by Indian-Americans and the 12th in 16 years.

Vanya, whose sister Kavya won the Bee in 2009, said she was dedicating the shared win to her grandmother, who died in 2013.

"This is a dream come true. I can't believe I'm up here," said Vanya, 13, who attends California Trail Middle School.

The co-victory is only the fifth in the 88-year history, with the last time in 2014. Each will receive $35,000 in cash along with other prizes.   Continued...

Vanya Shivashankar (L) of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, St. Louis Missouri lift the trophy after becoming co-champions after the final round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor, Maryland May 28, 2015.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts