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Published on May 29, 2024
Austin's Young Spelling Prodigy Tarini Nandakumar Breezes into Quarterfinals at National BeeSource: Uprising Man, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Texas is once again proving to be a powerhouse at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, with a young Austinite, Tarini Nandakumar, making headlines. The 13-year-old seventh grader from Challenger School - Avery Ranch in Austin competed against 245 young whizzes in the 96th annual extravaganza of Lexicon. Nandakumar, already an experienced competitor, advanced through the preliminary round and is now set to spell her way through the quarterfinals in Washington, D.C., reports KVUE.

The Texas delegation boasted 20 spellers, with 15 surviving to the quarterfinals. Amongst the notable competitors are 14-year-olds Jayden Zheng from Amarillo and Sriya Gomatam from Dallas, who are eyeing the semifinals. The quarterfinals kicked off early Wednesday, running until noon, while the high-stakes semis were scheduled to broadcast from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT, according to KXAN.

Nandakumar has previously shown her prowess, having tied for 16th and 49th place in 2022 and 2021, respectively, and making it to the final round last year. Despite being eliminated on the word "chthonic," she has returned with undeterred ambition. Her interests outside the competition include reading, building with LEGOs, and practicing Bharatanatyam—a classical Indian dance form.

This year's gallery of young linguists represents not just all 50 states but also U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam. With such diverse backgrounds, these contenders are united by their mastery of the orthographical challenges that the English language so generously supplies. The ultimate prize includes a $50,000 cash award, a medal, and a trophy symbolizing their victory. Last year, it was Florida's Dev Shah who clinched the title, correctly spelling "psammophile," a testament to the event’s unpredictability and the talent that converges here, as noted by KVUE.