Sixth grader Ananya Vinay went head to head with Oklahoma eighth grader Rohan Rajeev for 20 rounds in what was described as a marathon day that began more than 12 hours earlier before winning the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday.
“It’s like a dream come true, I’m so happy right now,” she said after she was handed the trophy.
And she put in a plug for her favorite athlete, Stephen Curry, whose Golden State Warriors were playing in the NBA Finals. “Go Curry,” she said.
Ananya’s winning word was “marocain,” a French word for a dress fabric that is a warp of silk and rayon. In preceding rounds she nailed the spelling of “gifblaar,” “wayzgoose,” “tschefuncte” “gesith” and “cecidomyia” as she battled Rajeev throughout the championship rounds.
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Among Ananya’s other correctly spelled words: “gargouillade,” “cuivre,” “dasein,” “nuraghe,” “shyana,” “arribada,” “phthirophagous,” “apagoge,” “acharnement” and “verdaccio.”
Ananya, a three-time California State Elementary Spelling Bee champion, was among an elite group of 15 spellers competing Thursday in the nail-biting finalist rounds – three from Texas, two from California and one each from North Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Jersey.
The 12-year-old Fresno, California, girl, who attends Fugman Elementary School in Clovis Unified School District, first competed in the National Spelling Bee in 2016, qualifying out of the Fresno County Spell-Off that’s sponsored by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools office in partnership with The Fresno Bee. Other sponsors include Fresno State, Chevron, Granville Homes, EECU Credit Union, the Shops at River Park and the ERC grant writing firm. Last year, she got as far as the third round.
This year, she qualified for the finals after correctly spelling “equipluve” (a line on a rainfall map connecting places where the same fraction of their several annual rainfalls occurs during any specified portion of the year), “strepsiceros” (a type of African antelope), “latifundium” (a large estate or ranch in ancient Rome or more recently in Spain or Latin America) and “seiche” (a temporary disturbance in the water level of a lake or partially enclosed body of water).
Ananya was one of the 291 contestants from all over the country who qualified for the National Spelling Bee. This year’s field included the youngest entrant in the 90-year history of the National Spelling Bee, 6-year-old Edith Fuller from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She did not advance.
Ananya’s parents, her 7-year-old brother Achuth and her grandmother joined her at the competition, which was held in a Washington, D.C., suburb at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel and Convention Center.
2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee
Part 1: Thursday morning
Part 2: 5:30-7:30 p.m., ESPN
Of note: Paul Loeffler, the radio voice of Fresno State athletics, will be the voice of the Spelling Bee for ESPN for the 12th consecutive year. In 1990 he represented the Merced Sun-Star in the National Spelling Bee.