Harini Logan wins back the Spelling Bee crown for desi kids

Eighth grader from San Antonio, Texas, defeated Vikram Raju in the bee’s first-ever lightning-round tiebreaker

Harini Logan, a 14-year-old speller from San Antonio, Texas, won back the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee crown for desi kids beating a fellow Indian American in the competition’s first-ever spell-off.

Logan, competing in the bee for the fourth time, earned the prestigious title when she correctly spelled “moorhen”, which is defined as “the female of the red grouse” in the finals at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, on Thursday.

She was declared the winner after several rounds left Logan and Raju, 12, tied. “Honestly, so surreal,” she said of her win, calling it “a dream.”

Read: 70 Indian American kids among 234 spellers at 2022 Spelling Bee (May 4, 2022)

Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company presented her with the championship trophy for the 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“Harini displayed impressive focus and determination throughout the competition all the way up to her thrilling win,” Symson said.

“It’s exactly why the Scripps National Spelling Bee is a piece of American culture beloved by millions around the world. We get to know these spellers and their stories, and we love rooting them along with each turn at the microphone.”

“Congratulations to Harini and to all of the national competitors this year. Scripps is proud to tell your stories.”

Besides the championship trophy, Logan received $50,000 cash prize, commemorative medal and the Scripps Cup from Scripps.

She also received $2,500 cash prize and reference library from the Bee’s dictionary partner Merriam-Webster and $400 of reference works, including a 1768 Encyclopædia Britannica Replica Set and a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium from Encyclopædia Britannica.

Second placed Vikram Raju of Aurora, Colorado will receive $30,000, while third placed Vihaan Sibal of McGregor, Texas, will receive $15,000.

In the final rounds, both Raju and Logan first missed words back to back — tripped up by “Senijextee,” meaning “a Salishan people of the Columbian River Valley in Washington and British Columbia” and “Powys,” a Welsh geographic name, respectively.

Read: Scripps National Spelling Bee returning with spell-off, word meaning elements (April 26, 2022)

But Raju, a seventh grader from Denver, was tripped up in the next round by “caul” — allowing Logan to spell “sereh” correctly. But she was then tripped up by “drimys,” meaning the two headed to the next round.

Raju then missed “Otukian,” giving Logan a chance with “myricetin.” But she again missed. And each missed the next word: Raju, “pyrrolidone”; Logan, “scyllarian.”

Judges then decided the two would face off in a spell-off, the first in the history of the bee.

Each contestant had 90 seconds to spell as many words as possible. Raju ended the round with 15 confirmed correctly spelled words — but Logan edged him out with 22 out of 26 words attempted – the highest percentage of words spelled correctly – to earn the coveted champion title.

Raju, though, told host LeVar Burton he would be back next year. A three-time competitor in 2022, he’ll be eligible one more time.

“We activated the spell-off because it was the best chance to show the extent of these spellers’ preparation,” said Dr. J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Spelling Bee. “Clearly, they demonstrated their deep capacity for the competition.”

Last year’s winner, Zaila Avant-garde, was the first African American winner in the bee’s history. The event was canceled in 2020, the first time since World War II, due to Covid=19 pandemic.

Logan, an 8th grader at The Montessori School of San Antonio, was sponsored by Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre Association. She placed 31st in 2021, 30th in 2019 and 323rd in 2018.

Earlier on reaching the finals, Logan said after watching the “cool big kids” on stage since 2015, she was flattered to inspire other young spellers as a “cool big kid” herself.

“It’s so unreal to think I could be doing that for some second grader in their house,” she said of inspiring other spellers.

Read: Indian-American Harini Logan crowned Scripps National Spelling Bee champion (June 3, 2022)

Harini also likes to swim, play tennis, sing, write and act – she likes drama and musical theater. She’s also learning to play stringed instruments, and quipped that she’s building herself an orchestra.

Spelling, she said is a passion – each word carries meaning and is a way to view different world cultures. As she learned in a research project, just 14 percent of English comes from its own language family, the Germanic languages.

“It’s so interesting to me how each word has made a journey like any explorer,” she said. “Passion leads me to want to know more.”

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