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Scripps 8th grader wins Oakland Press Regional Spelling Bee

Nikhik Dwibhashyam stands with his mother and spelling coach Padmaja Avantsa, who is holding Merriam-Webster's great unabridged dictionary of the English language he won along with the trophy. The close to seven-pound dictionary will be his new best friend until the May competition. Meg Peters. (click for larger version)
February 12, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

After 21 rounds of words he might not even have known, Scripps Middle School eighth-grader Nikhil Dwibhashyam won the 19th annual Oakland Press Regional Spelling Bee.

Now he is preparing for an all expenses paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee during Bee Week 2014 in Washington D.C. at the end of May.

Dwibhashyam stole the lead when he spelled "satyr" correctly, which in Greek mythology is a noun describing a forest deity that has the face and body of a man, and ears, legs and tail of a goat.

He also spelled taurine, an amino acid used for neurological function, vorlage, a noun referring to a prior version or manifestation of a manuscript, and grissino, another word for an Italian breadstick.

Grissino was the only word both Dwibhashyam and second place finisher Prateeksunder Pinchi from Reuther Middle School in Rochester Hills spelled incorrectly.

Dwibhashyam said "not always, but a lot of times" he will not know what a certain word means, but reading a certain book called "How to Spell Like a Champ" gave him tips on how to spell words from different languages.

His mother and spelling coach Padmaja Avantsa said Dwibhashyam is a regular Sherlock Holmes.

"He might not even have heard it or read about it, but you ask for the word's origin, its definition. You ask for the proper speech, for how it is used in a sentence, and then it's like being a detective. You're putting all the clues together to come up with the spelling," Avantsa said. "So that's the amazing part because you've probably never heard that word before, but you can still come up with that word if you know all these clues. So he's basically a detective with words."

Avantsa sits down with her son for an hour between schoolwork every weekday, and two hours every Saturday and Sunday with a dictionary in hand, studying the English language.

"It's funny because for him it's just fun. So he just reads the dictionary for fun. It's always been that way. Nobody has forced him to do it or anything like that," Avantsa said.

Dwibhashyam won two trophies. He gets to keep the smaller one, and a larger Oakland Press Trophy, which is passed from school to school of the annual winner, will arrive at Scripps Middle School in a few days with his name engraved.

Dwibhashyam also won Merriam-Webster's great unabridged dictionary of the English Language weighing in close to seven pounds, which he plans to study for the national spelling bee in May.

"Normally I'm nervous for that kind of thing, but I wasn't really that nervous," Dwibhashyam said of his fresh win.

This was key.

"As the competition went on and on I just saw a lot of kids getting really nervous when their turn came, Avantsa said. "But he was pretty composed and calm I thought. I think that also helped him win because you need to be focused and not let your nerves get you," she said.

The spelling bee lasted around four hours.

Dwibhashyam will be competing with more than 270 top spellers in Washington D.C. from May 25 to May 31 for a $30,000 cash prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship from Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, an engraved trophy from the national competition, reference works valued at $2,600 from Encyclopedia Britannica, a Nook color tablet complete with an online language course from Midlebury Interactive Languages, and a complete reference library from Meriam-Webster.

Dwibhashyam is very excited for the opportunity, and so is his mother.

"It's a week-long trip, that pays for your hotel, take you on tours. He will get to meet students from all over the country. Whether he wins or not, just the whole experience is going to be a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to it as much," she said.

Dwibhashyam, his sister Neha, who also placed in the top seven for the Oakland Press competition, and his parents will all travel to D.C. for the competition.

Dwibhashyam hopes to be a mathematical physicist when he grows up.

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