Maryland Sixth-Grader Advances to Final Rounds of National Spelling Bee

"Surimi," a paste made from fish often used in Asian dishes, was Saketh Sundar’s first word at the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals Thursday.

Saketh, an 11-year-old from Elkridge, Maryland, managed to spell it correctly, of course. He did the same for the words "definiendum," "cunette" and "dacryocyst" in the subsequent rounds.

And that meant Saketh made it to the National Spelling Bee finals, televised Thursday night on ESPN.

Saketh misspelled the word "tules" in the finals. But he managed to impress quite a few viewers.

This wasn’t his first trip to the National Spelling Bee. Saketh participated in the 2016 competition as well, but he never thought he would make it this far in the competition this year, Saketh said Thursday.

“I feel ecstatic, because I never expected for this to happen,” Saketh said. “I thought I would get out in round six or round seven, and this happening is amazing.”

Of the twenty-five competitors from D.C., Maryland and Virginia, Saketh is the only one left standing, News4 previously reported.

Saketh credited his success in the National Spelling Bee to his family. He and his parents studied one to two hours every night leading up to the competition, trying to make sure he would be prepared for whatever words came his way, he said.

“If I had got some different words, I probably couldn’t be here, but I just got lucky,” he said.

Saketh is a sixth grader at Mayfield Woods Middle School, where he plays the violin in the school’s orchestra and participates in the student government association.

This year, Saketh was awarded high honors from the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. One day, he wants to be a gastroenterologist, because he wants to cure people with stomach disorders, according to his profile on the Scripps National Spelling Bee website.

“I thought I could get to the top ten next year if I did well in the finals, but I never thought I could make it to the finals continued this year," Saketh said.

In between studying for the final rounds tomorrow, Saketh plans to relax a little and take stock in the new friends he’s met and his success so far. 

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