DC-area Word Whizzes Compete in National Spelling Bee

WASHINGTON — Nearly a dozen local sixth, seventh and eighth-graders are among the almost 300 spellers vying for the trophy in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week at National Harbor and broadcast live on ESPN.

The local spelling whizzes join 291 other students — ranging from 6 to 15 — competing over two days and multiple rounds to take the title of top speller.

Overall, two of the finalists hail from D.C.; 10 from Maryland; and 13 from Virginia. Eleven of the finalists come specifically from the D.C. area.

Along with bragging rights, champion spellers take home $40,000 cash, an engraved trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, $400 worth of reference works and appearances on “LIVE with Kelly and Ryan” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

After two preliminary rounds Wednesday, the finals kick off Thursday. Round one of the finals starts at 10 a.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The second round of the finals airs in primetime on ESPN starting at 8 p.m.

The last (and only) time a local won the bee was in 1984, when 13-year-old Daniel Greenblatt, from Sterling, Virginia, won with “luge.”

The prizes were more modest back then. Greenblatt won a trophy, a $1,000 check and an appearance on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

Check out all the local contestants below:


Kelly Han
Eighth Grade at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland
Sponsor: The Washington Informer

Margaret Isacson
Seventh Grade at Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in D.C.
Sponsor: The Washington Informer


Haley Elizabeth Payton
Seventh grade at Milton M. Somers MiddleSchool in La Plata, Maryland
Spnosor: The Maryland Independent in Waldorf, Maryland

Emma Liu
Eight grade at Urbana Middle School in Frederick, Maryland
Sponsor: Frederick County Public Libraries in Frederick, Maryland,

Manjeet Surana Nirula
Sixth grade at Briggs Chaney Middle School, in Silver Spring, Maryland
Sponsor: The Meakem Group in Bethesda, Maryland

Storrie Jamerson Kulynch-Irvin
Home-schooled seventh grader
Sponsor: Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Saketh Sundar
Sixth grade in Mayfield Woods Middle School in Elkridge, Maryland
Sponsor: Howard County Library


Bethanya Yared
Eighth grade at St. William of York Catholic School in Stafford, Virginia
Sponsor: The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Aditya Chezhiyan
Seventh garde at Marsteller Middle school in Bristow, Virginia
Sponsor: InsideNoVa/Prince Willima in Manassas, Virginia

Reshmi Balakrishnan
Sixth grade at Greenbiar West Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia
Sponsor: Fairfax County Council of PTAs in Merrifield, Virginia

Rishubh Kaushal
Eight grade at Seneca Ridge Middle School in Sterling, Virginia
Sponsor: Loudoun County Public Schools in Leesburg, Virginia

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