National Spelling Winner Harini Logan and Finalists Celebrate in DC

National Spelling Winner Harini Logan and Finalists Celebrate in DC

Placeholder while loading article actions

Harini Logan entered the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night feeling the weight of the past: the college years, her three previous failed attempts, her furious preparation for that final shot at the championship before aging out of competition.

The next morning, the 14-year-old eighth grader was dreaming about the future. She had just won the bee after a jaw-dropping 90-second spell, and she was already making plans for her over $50,000 in prize money.

Harini said she’ll save some of it for college — she dreams of going to Stanford University and studying medicine and business — and she hopes to learn how to invest in the stock market. But she also wants to create a fund “to help students in disadvantaged areas where they don’t have access to bees even if they want to”.

Finalist Vikram Raju, 12, had a different opinion regarding his $25,000 prize.

“I don’t know what to do with it yet,” he said, “because I don’t really know what to do with my money.”

Texas’ Harini Logan wins National Spelling Bee in first-ever spelling

Both spellings had been here before. Vikram, of Aurora, Colorado, tied for 51st in 2019 and 21st last year. Harini, a San Antonio native, tied for 323rd in 2018, 30th in 2019 and 31st in 2021. She had seen the 2020 contest canceled due to the pandemic, and the 2021 contest made partly virtual .

“There’s definitely a gravity about my fourth and final time,” Harini said on Friday, after three days of competition at National Harbor. “I’m so lucky and grateful to have my last bee in person.”

As the winner, Harini will receive $50,000 in cash, a commemorative medal and the official Bee Championship trophy; $2,500 in cash and a reference library from Merriam-Webster; and $400 worth of reference works from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vikram will receive a medal and the $25,000 cash.

Prizes are not the only reward. To breakfast Thursday, the finalists were told they would be heading to the White House on Friday and “erupted into cheers,” said Corrie Loeffler, editorial director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (The Bidens weren’t home, but it was “awesome,” Vikram said.) On Friday evening, there will be a banquet, awards ceremony and farewell party at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. As tradition dictates, the festivities will end with a dance party.

Vikram Raju, 12, of Aurora, Colorado, danced outside the White House with Jacques Bailly, the bee’s official pronunciator on June 3. (Video: The Washington Post)

The bee stretched late into the night on Thursday, culminating in the first spell in the competition’s history, between Harini and Vikram. The spell provision was added last year, Loeffler explained, although it hasn’t been used. Part of the rationale, she said, was that the contestants had studied “thousands and thousands of words” to be quizzed on a handful, so a rapid-fire tiebreaker would give them “the greatest possible chance to show how much they have learned.”

Another part of thinking, especially for young children who were still spelling as midnight approached: “At some point,” Loeffler said, “the competition has to end.”

The finalists had rehearsed for a spell, she said, and knew it was a possibility.

“It was looming,” said Harini, who had started practicing speed spelling a month or two before the competition. “Certainly, I was a bit anxious, and the fact that it was actually a spell was a bit surreal.”

Vikram went first and nailed 12 spellings to start, from “spealbone” (“the shoulder blade used by magicians or healers in divination”) to “teosinte” (a herb from Central and South America), finishing with 15 correct out of 19 attempted words.

Harini threw the same 12 to start, but she operated at a faster pace, reaching 26 words in total and spelling 22 correctly. His last seven words, which Vikram never reached, ranged from “chorepiscopus” (a Catholic bishop’s rank) to “moorhen” (a red-billed waterfowl).

Vikram and his family planned to stay in DC until Sunday, after exploring some Smithsonian museums, his mother, Sandhya Ayyar, said. A few Colorado news outlets asked to meet him at the airport when he landed, Ayyar said; he was asked to fill in as a meteorologist for a day. He’s thinking, he said.

“You know, it’s been a crushing roller coaster,” Ayyar said. “He was overwhelmed, but I think he realized then what he achieved last night and he feels proud of himself.”

“This year, I didn’t even expect to be a finalist,” Vikram said, adding, “I kind of learned my true potential through the bee. So that’s a very important thing that the bee taught me: she really taught me not to underestimate myself. »

Zaila Vanguard, last year’s bee winner and the competition’s first African-American champion, had prepared for a spell last year, she said, and had always thought it would be exciting to watch one. Sitting in the audience Thursday night in Maryland, “Listening to them both was really impressive,” she said.

“It’s suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat moment,” said Zaila, a 15-year-old basketball player who recently moved to the district from Louisiana. “It’s great for television.”

Zaila Vanguard wins the 2021 National Spelling Bee, becoming her first African-American champion

She said she loved that the “unnerving” spell was such a different beast from the traditional format, which allows spellers to deliberate and ask questions. And she was “super happy” for Harini, who she spoke with earlier in the competition.

“I was actually crying when she won and the confetti fell,” Zaila said.

Harini credited his mother’s coaching for his win. His advice to other spellings? Work hard, don’t let your nerves get to you and “be proud of yourself. It doesn’t matter how far you come. Just realizing that you did your best.

Now Harini plans to take some time off to relax. “This will be my first summer in many years without spelling,” she said.

Vikram, meanwhile, has vowed to return next year. “I’m hopeful that I can maintain my ranking and even become first,” he said.

After all, he’s only in fifth grade, so he still has a chance.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *