Dallas regional spelling bee crowns co-champs after running out of words

Staff Photographer

Dearth. Shortage. Depleted.

While none of these was the winning word at the 60th annual Golden Chick Dallas Regional Spelling Bee, each summed up the situation that unfolded Saturday at the Bush Center in Dallas.

For the first time that anyone could remember, bee organizers ran out of words to lob at the young competitors.

As a result, after 27 rounds of competition lasting over two hours, the last two students standing were named co-champions.

Naysa Modi of Frisco and Abhijay Kodali of Flower Mound never faltered. They will head to Washington, D.C., at the end of May to represent North and East Texas at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. All expenses will be paid by the Dallas Sports Commission, presenter of the Dallas bee for the last two years.

Naysa Modi (left) and Abhijay Kodali were named co-champions of Saturday’s the 60th annual Golden Chick Dallas Regional Spelling Bee. (Rose Baca/Staff Photographer)

Using up the entire list of words ultimately wasn’t a problem, as regional bee officials for the first time already had planned to send the top two finishers to the national competition.

Larry Kelly, the commission’s marketing director, said officials wanted to do this for two reasons.

"To acknowledge and celebrate the 60th anniversary year of the Dallas Regional Bee and because our region is so large and has so many talented spellers," he said.

Other areas also send more than one competitor. Houston, for example, sent two last year.

Saturday’s bee began with a videotaped greeting from former first lady Laura Bush. She congratulated spellers for making it to the regional level, and she touted the importance of spelling and reading.

"Your talent in spelling … will help you read any book," she said. "And reading is the most important thing you can do."

And with that, the battle among 21 spellers got underway. Along the way, students had to handle words like "amerce" (to punish by imposing a fine not fixed by statute), "urticant" (producing a stinging or itching sensation) and "scarabaeus" (a less common name for "scarab," which is a representation or image of a beetle).

By the 12th round, only three students remained — Naysa, Abhijay and Sohum Sukhatankar, a sixth-grader at St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas.

Sohum was last year’s regional champion and placed in the top 40 at the national bee. On Saturday, he lasted 26 rounds before tripping on the word "religate," which means to bind together or constrain. Sohum mistakenly gave the spelling for the word "relegate," meaning to consign to a lower position.

Naysa, a seventh-grader at Reynolds Middle School in Prosper, will be returning to the national bee for the fourth time. The 12-year-old won three regional bees in Louisiana before moving to North Texas in August. Last year, she finished seventh in the nation.

While admitting to having butterflies before each bee, Naysa said she’s calm once on stage. Her poise was on display each round. She asked many questions of the pronouncer, then typed out each word on an imaginary keyboard before spelling them.

"That’s how I study," she said. Her advice for success in spelling bees is "to take a deep breath and calm down because when you freak out, your brain shuts down."

Abhijay, 11, stood with his hands behind his back before slowly spelling out his words. He’s a fifth-grade student at Liberty Elementary School in Flower Mound. His teacher, Kim Martich, and principal, Tim Greenwell, came to offer support and said they plan to celebrate his victory at the school.

Abhijay said he prepares by making up quizzes and doing them with his sister, a former spelling champion herself. This was his first time in the regional bee.

More about the bee

WFAA-TV (Channel 8 ) will televise the regional bee at 4 p.m. Sunday. Bee Week 2018 is May 27-June 1 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center near Washington, D.C.. The finals are scheduled for 8:30 p.m May 31. To learn more, visit spellingbee.com.

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