A 13-year-old Indian-American girl from Kansas, Kavya Shivshankar, has won the prestigious Scripps Spelling Bee championship trophy after a keenly-fought contest that was dominated by youngsters from the community.
Kavya was declared the Spelling Bee champion after she correctly spelled "laodicean" at the end of the grilling championship finals which included 11 students from all across the country, seven of whom happened to be Indian-Americans.
An eighth grader student from Olathe in Kansas, Kavya names Nupur Lala, the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, as her role model and the inspiration for her spelling career.
She looks forward to becoming a neurosurgeon. She participated in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 national finals-tying for 10th, 8th, and 4th place, respectively.
Tim Ruiter, 12, a seventh grade student from Centreville, Virginia was declared the runner-up, while Aishwarya Pastapur, 13, from Springfield in Illinois got the third spot.
A voracious reader and dedicated student, Aishwarya was instrumental in leading her Mathcounts team to state-level competition by winning first place in county-level competition two years in a row.
This is the second time in a row that an Indian-American has been declared winner of the Spelling Bee championship, a competition that has been traditionally dominated by students from the community.
Last year, Sameer Mishra from Lafayette, Indiana, got the top slot after he correctly spelled 'guerdon'. Rageshree Ramachandran from Sacramento, California was the first Indian American to win the championship in 1988. Nupur Lala from Tampa, Florida won it in 1999.
Among other Indian-Americans to have won the championship include Pratyush Buddiga from Denver, Colorado in 2002, Sai R Gunturi from Dallas, Texas in 2003 and Anurag Kashyap from San Diego, California in 2005.
In all 293 spellers participated in the nationals of the Spelling Bee Championship held in Washington for the past three days, which culminated with the finals last night. It was watched live by millions of people across the United States.
The spellers range in age from nine to 15 years old, but two-thirds were either 13 or 14 years old. Interestingly, English was not the first language of 33 spellers, and 117 spellers speak languages other than English.