(KMOV) – A Parkway West Middle School student is among a group of children competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday in Washington D.C.
For the second year in a row, Gokul Venkatachalam will represent the St. Louis area at the national spelling bee. The 12-year-old Chesterfield boy finished in 10th place last year and was knocked out after misspelling the word “kahikatea.”
Venkatachalam is one of 281 spellers who will compete in the first two rounds of the spelling bee on Wednesday. It can be seen on ESPN3.com.
Both the semi-finals and finals will be held on Thursday.
Wednesday’s rounds were to be combined with scores from a computer test to determine the semifinalists. The test included a section on vocabulary for the first time in the bee’s history.
The spellers came from all 50 states as well as Canada, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, China, Ghana, Italy, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The youngest is 8-year-old Tara Singh of Louisville, Ky. Last year there was a 6-year-old—Lori Anne Madison, the youngest speller ever to qualify—but she did not win her regional bee this year.
The first of this year’s favorites, 14-year-old Rachael Cundey of Evans, Ga., had no problem with “lokshen” (another word for noodles). Rachael tied for 10th last year and is back for the fifth time.
Another top contender hopes to become the second half of the bee’s first set of sibling champions. Eleven-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan., also finished tied for 10th last year and is hoping to emulate her sister, Kavya, who won the title in 2009.
Vanya, sporting her now-familiar look of headband and ponytail, is an energetic presence onstage and nods assuredly after spelling her words. It’s quite the contrast from her sister, who came across as more serious and always finished her words with a modest smile.
But they have the same spelling style—tracing the words on the palm while calling out the letters. Vanya did just that as she handled “intaglio,” a word related to engraving or printing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.