Spizzerinctum, offered 12-year-old Ananya Vinay, about her favorite word to spell.
And why not for the best in the America, a word worthy of her both in difficulty and in meaning.
“It means,” she explained, “the ambition to succeed.”
Ananya won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night after besting 290 others in a competition that ended after 21 of the scheduled 25 championship rounds.
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Top prize included $40,000.
“Spizzerinctum” never came up, but “marocain,” a French word for a dress fabric that is a warp of silk and rayon, did and proved to be the clincher.
And if there was any doubting her composure before, during or after, she even thought to put in a post-bee plug for her favorite athlete, Stephen Curry, whose Golden State Warriors were wrapping up a Game 1 win in the NBA Finals. “Go Curry,” she said.
Earlier she nailed the likes of “gifblaar,” “wayzgoose,” “tschefuncte” “gesith” and “cecidomyia” as she went head to head with Rohan Rajeev of Oklahoma.
After her win, Ananya congratulated Rohan, who opened the door for Ananya by missing “marram,” a type of coarse perennial grass.
Ananya is a three-time California State Spelling Bee champion and sixth-grader at Clovis Unified’s Fugman Elementary and one 15 spellers who qualified for Thursday night’s finals. Three were from Texas, two from California and one each from North Carolina, Alabama, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Jersey.
As one of the youngest finalists, her win was somewhat unexpected. She was 172nd as a national rookie in the 2016 bee, qualifying out of the Fresno County Spell-Off sponsored by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools office in partnership with The Fresno Bee. Other sponsors include Fresno State, Chevron, Granville Homes, EECU Credit Union, the Shops at River Park and the ERC grant-writing firm.
“Sometimes it’s easier being an underdog, because it makes your work harder,” mom Anupama Poliyedath said.
Ananya’s parents, plus 7-year-old brother Achuth and her grandmother, watched, cheered and waited nervously from the stands.
Her father, Vinay Sreekumer, sat in the aisle and gestured encouragingly in her direction, hoping to provide a calming influence. Mom closed her eyes, with Achuth on her lap, until she heard Ananya spell the final word correctly.
“I’m a proud dad,” Vinay said, “she came here to win. She knew she could do it. I’m not surprised but I’m happy.”
Family and friends back in Fresno, and in Kerala, India, provided long-distance support while sending messages to her parents after every word she spelled correctly.
Ananya’s advice for aspiring national champion spellers?
“Just try your best,” she said, “and try and figure out the word if you don’t know it.”
▪ Sameera Hussain, a 14-year-old student at Sequoia Middle School of Porterville, also made it as far as Round 3 last year and spelled all her words correctly this year, but did not score high enough on the written exam to advance to the finals. This was her last year of eligibility.
▪ This year’s field included the youngest entrant in the 90-year history of the National Spelling Bee, 6-year-old Edith Fuller from Tulsa, Okla. She did not advance.
A look at some of the words successfully tackled by Fresno sixth-grader Ananya Vinay en route to winning the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in suburban Washington, D.C.
Verdaccio: mixture of black, white, and yellow pigments resulting in a soft greenish brown
Acharnement: French word meaning ferocity
Apagoge: indirect argument that proves something by showing the impossibility of the contrary
Phthirophagous: an adjective that means lice-eating
Arribada: Spanish for a nesting of sea turtles
Shyana: Sanskrit for meditation on a single object
Nuraghe: a large stone structure of Sardinia
Dasein: Germanic philosophy word that means human existence
Cuivre: French word used as a direction in music
Gargouillade: catlike forward leap in ballet