Indian-American runner-up at National Spelling Bee

Chaitra Thummala, runner-up in Scripps National Spelling Bee 2021 that ended July 8, 2021. Photo courtesy Scripps National Spelling Bee (screenshot)

Chaitra Thummala, 12, sixth grader from San Francisco, California’s Gale Ranch Middle School, and Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans fought it out, though in a friendly fashion, high-fiving each other as they battled for the crown. But it was Zaila Avant-garde who won the top prize.

Zaila won it by spelling ‘murraya’ correctly, a word that refers to a tropical Asiatic and Australian tree species.

In the round just before the last, Thummala incorrectly spelt the word neroli oil (an essential oil from flowers, mainly the sour orange, which is used in cologne and as a flavoring), leaving the field open for Avant-garde.

However, nine Indian-Americans were among the finalists at the Scripps National Spelling Bee July 8, 2021, which also saw a visit from First Lady Jill Biden.

The finalists included –

  • Roy Seligman, 12, from Nassau, The Bahamas. Sponsored by The Ministry of Education.
  • Bhavana Madini, 13, from New York. Sponsored by NYC Regional Spelling Bee.
  • Sreethan Gajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina. Sponsored by the Carolina Panthers.
  • Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia. Sponsored by Loudoun County Public Schools.
  • Avani Joshi, 13, from Loves Park, Illinois. Sponsored by Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education.
  • Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans. Sponsored by New Orleans Chapter of The Links.
  • Vivinsha Veduru, 10, from Fort Worth, Texas. Sponsored by Texas Christian University.
  • Dhroov Bharatia, 12, from Dallas. Sponsored by Dallas Sports Commission.
  • Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Waco, Texas. Sponsored by Rapoport Holdings, LLC.
  • Akshainie Kamma, 13, from Austin, Texas. Sponsored by West Austin Chamber of Commerce.
  • Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco. Sponsored by Bay Area Regional Spelling Bee.

The winner receives numerous prizes including $50,000 in cash;the official championship trophy, a cash prize and reference library from Merriam-Webster; more reference works valued at $2,500; and a 3-year membership to the Britannica Online Premium.

According to her bio on the National Spelling Bee website,”Thummala Chaitra loves music and traveling. She recently got a baby brother who she loves playing with along with her little sister. She wants to go to Santorini, Greece. Her favorite books are Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder and The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson. She has won awards at her local Science Olympiad and Math Olympiad.”



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