14-yr-old Indian American Harini Logan wins Spelling Bee after historic spell-off

Friday, 3 June 2022 (12:09 IST)
Washington: Harini Logan, a 14-year-old Indian American from Texas, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in a dramatic, unprecedented spell-off.

Harini, competing in the bee for the fourth time, correctly spelled 21 words in a rapid-fire 90-second burst at National Harbor in Maryland on Thursday night, outlasting runner-up Vikram Raju, 12, of Colorado who correctly spelled 15.

The spell-off followed several heart-stopping rounds during which neither contestant was able to prevail, according to media reports.

THIS IS INTENSE pic.twitter.com/3UKFCkOrdZ

— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 3, 2022

After she was announced the winner, Harini jubilantly held the trophy high over her head.

“This is just such a dream. I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “I just had to take a deep breath and tell myself that I just go out there and do my best and whatever happens, happens.”

Vikram fought back tears and struggled to take a breath as LeVar Burton, the competition’s host this year, asked: “Will we see you next year?”

The three-day competition, held fully in-person for the first time since 2019, drew students from around the country and a few from abroad. Most were middle-school age — the cutoff is eighth grade — but this week two were 7.

Many were first-time qualifiers, after winning local and regional bees; Harini and Vikram were veterans.

“When it got introduced last year, I was a bit terrified, to be honest,” Harini said. “I go slow. That’s my thing. I didn’t know how I would fare in that setting.”

Harini, one of the best-known spellers entering the bee and a crowd favorite for her poise and positivity, wins more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.

She is the fifth Scripps champion to be coached by Grace Walters, a former speller.

“I knew I just had to blurt off the spelling I could think of off the top of my head, and I just had to be a little faster,” said Vikram, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Aurora, Colorado, who hopes to return next year.

Vihaan Sibal, a 13-year-old from McGregor, Texas, finished third and also has another year of eligibility. Saharsh Vuppala, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Bellevue, Washington, was fourth.

Harini is Indian-American, resuming a trend that's persisted for two decades — 21 of the past 23 champions have had South Asian heritage. (UNI)

(Photo Source: Facebook/Scripps National Spelling Bee)

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