Indian American students bag 1st and 2nd rack in SpellPundit contest

indica News Bureau-

A 14-year-old Indian-American student has won the first edition of the SpellPundit contest, a new spelling contest, like that of US’ prestigious Scripps Spelling Bee competition.

Navneeth Murali, an eighth-grader from Edison, New Jersey, won the contest by correctly spelling “Karoshthi”, an ancient cursive script used in Central Asia, the New York Daily News reported.

Second place was secured by another Indian origin girl Nidhi Achanta who is also an eighth-grader while  Harini Logan, a sixth-grader bagged the third prize.

SpellPundit co-founder Shourav Dasari announced Murali as the winner.

The prestigious Scripps Spelling Bee tournament, which has been dominated by Indian-Americans over the years, has been canceled for 2020 in view of the coronavirus pandemic, for the first time since World War-II.

Murali, who finished in fifth place as a sixth-grader and 11th place as a seventh-grader at the earlier editions of the Spelling Bee, will now take home USD 3,000 as the winner of the SpellPundit.

“I knew all the words in the bee. I just didn’t want to be overconfident, because you never know what can happen in a spelling bee because no one knows the dictionary completely,” he said.

The SpellPundit test consisted of a written spelling and vocabulary test, then oral spelling, just like Scripps.

Last year, after running out of words that were challenging enough for the contestants, the Spelling Bee ended in an eight-way tie resulting in unprecedented octo-champs. Six of the champions were Indian-Americans.

The competition, which is broadcast nationally on ESPN and gives USD 50,000 prize money, will return on June 1, 2021. The organizers of the Scripps National Spelling Bee canceled the event citing “no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020”. The only other time the spelling bee, an annual event since 1925, was canceled was from 1943 to 1945 because of World War II.