Indian American teen Dev Shah wins 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee


Dev Shah, a 14-year-old Indian American from Florida, has won the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee, by correctly spelling the word “psammophile” — an organism that lives in sandy areas.

On Thursday evening, Shah, a student from Largo, became the winner of the 95th national bee and the $50,000 prize, the BBC reported.

The runner-up was 14-year-old Charlotte Walsh from Arlington, Virginia. She failed to correctly spell “daviely” in an earlier round.

Eleven students made the finals after 11 million people entered spelling competitions, according to the organisers.

“It’s surreal… my legs are still shaking,” the BBC quoted Dev as saying as he collected the trophy on stage, joined by his family.

His mother said she was “very proud” of him.

He had previously entered the competition in 2019 and 2021, finishing tied 51st and tied 76th, respectively.

On his way to the final he correctly spelled words such as bathypitotmeter, schistorrhachis and rommack. He also correctly answered a question, saying that a magician would be most likely to practice legerdemain.

In 2022, Harini Logan, an Indian-American from San Antonio, Texas, won the first-ever spell-off at the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee against Vikram Raju getting 21 of 26 words right.

From the 231 national contestants, the 11 finalists left standing in three days of gruelling competition, 10 were of Indian origin.

After nine were eliminated, Shah went into the final round against 14-year-old Charlotte Walsh from Arlington, Virginia, beating her with bathypitotmeter (a device for measuring water temperature and current) before clinching the award by spelling the final word correctly.

Shradha Rachamreddy and Surya Kapu tied for the third place with a $15,000 prize.

Shah is a class 8 student from Largo.

Schistorrhachis and aegagrus were among the words he spelt correctly through 15 rounds reaching the top.

Children of Indian origin have dominated the contest, which tests not only the rote memorisation of spellings but also the knowledge of the origin of words and their structure and usage.

Thousands of students from around the US and some foreign countries compete in local and regional competitions before the field is narrowed to 231.

Since Balu Natarajan won it in 1985, 21 Indian-origin children have followed him, monopolising it from 2008 to 2018.

Harini Logan was the winner last year resuming the Indian lead, after a 2021 win by a non-Indian.

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