Broadcast on ESPN and awarding a cash prize of $50,000 dollars, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been making waves across the USA since it began 95 years ago. After last years 8 way tie (!) for first place, the excitement for this years roundup of the nations most brilliant spellers was at it’s peak as students spend years studying and waiting for the chance to compete in this mega-spelling contest held in a packed convention center ballroom on the banks of the Potomac River outside of Washington DC.
Along came the COVID19 pandemic making large scale gatherings impossible forcing Scripps to cancel the event thereby abruptly ending eligibility for this years 8th graders who studied so hard to master their craft. The heartbreak was palpable for this year 8th grade contestants and their families as they watched their last chance of competing in 2020 fade away.
With no replacement competition being offered by Scripps, Shobha & Shourav Dasari – prior spelling bee contestants – decided to offer a replacement online competition to fill the void. The enterprising sister-brother team based out of Woodlands, Texas run a paid spelling bee prep service called SpellPundit that would now host a national online spelling bee of their own in the final week of May when the Scripps competition would normally take place.
SpellPundit’s services played a role in the last Scripps competition; out of last years top 50 spellers, 38 were customers according to Shobha, 19 now a freshman at Stanford. The company charges $600 a year for students to access their curated lists and website features. The firm charged $25 to enter this years competition. One contestant in last years Scripps competition said he had studied SpellPundits hand-picked list of 120,000 words culled from the 472,000 words in the dictionary.
The big news for Edison residents came when Shourav, a high school junior asked a 14 year old 8th grader to spell “Karoshthi” which is an ancient, cursive script of Aramaic origin used in India and elsewhere in central Asia.
That 14 year old was Edison’s own Navneeth Murali!
BestrentNJ.com tenants at Edison Woods, Edison Woods Senior 55+, Edison Village, Blueberry Village, & Rivendell Heights can be proud of this Edison native son who found his way to victory. Navneeth showed his moxie when on May 28 he walked away the champion after watching two final opponents crumble in defeat. Confident throughout the online tournament, when Navneeth was told that his answer was correct, he replied with deadpan cool “thanks,” as digital confetti and canned crowd noise erupted on his computer.
While the prize was only $2,000 (+ a $2,500 boost from The Juggernaught, a media company covering the South Asian community), the prestige – especially amongst the speller community – was enormous. That community is petitioning Scripps to come up with an alternative for this years eighth graders and Navneeth will continue his spelling passion most probably as a coach regardless of Scripps decision.
Navneeth may also pursue a science related competition and made clear what his priority was right now; “My main focus is to do well in High School.”
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