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National Spelling Bee Winner Cements Victory With ‘Marocain’

June 2, 2017 3:36 PM
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As the announcer offered his congratulations and the audience at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., roared, Ananya remained expressionless, except for the slightest lift in one cheek.

She swayed from right to left, a movement that only stopped as her father, Vinay Sreekumar, rushed to the stage and gave her a bear hug.

“It was a shock to actually hear it,” Ananya, 12, of Fresno, Calif., said on Friday, referring to the announcement that she had won. “It was like a dream. I was there but I was watching it almost.”

She only began to beam when her mother, Anu Pama Poliyedathpp, and 7-year-old-brother Achuth, joined her father on the stage and hugged her amid the falling confetti. She got some help lifting the 10-pound trophy above her head.

Mr. Sreekumar had been in the audience close to the stage, watching intently as the final word was announced. His elbows bent and palms out, he pumped his hands rhythmically. Ananya said that was a signal for her to stay calm and focus.

Ananya, who is a sixth grader at Fugman Elementary School in Fresno, said she studied about two hours a day for a year. In particular, she said, she analyzed the roots of words.

On Friday, she was thrust into the media spotlight after only three hours of sleep. She was interviewed on television programs such as “Good Morning America,” “Today” and “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”

When she hesitated after asking its pronunciation and language of origin, Mr. Cuomo ribbed her: “Stop stalling! Do you know how to spell this word?”

When she spelled it “cofefe,” Mr. Cuomo pronounced it “good enough” and Ms. Camerota said: “Close. You win.”

As national champion, she won $40,000, a $2,500 savings bond, reference books and a Kindle e-reader.

The bee began on Tuesday with 291 contestants who were among the top .000026 percent of more than 11 million students who competed in classrooms, schools and local events around the country, according to contest organizers.

How about you? How did you do with the definitions for those words Ananya spelled correctly in earlier rounds?

According to Merriam-Webster, a konditorei is a shop that sells confectionery or pastry; heiligenschein is a bright light around the shadow of a person’s head caused by diffraction and reflection of sunlight by dewdrops; and wayzgoose is a printer’s annual outing.


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