Education | International

Bruhat Soma wins 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Bruhat Soma emerged victorious in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, earning more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.

This year's contest came down to a tiebreaker in which Soma spelt 29 words correctly in 90 seconds, beating out Faizan Zaki, who managed to correctly spell 20 words in the lightning round.

Bruhat went first in the tiebreaker, and after he got through 30 words, it appeared he would be impossible to beat. Faizan's pace was more uneven at the outset. He attempted 25 words but flubbed four of them.

Shortly after Bruhat was showered with confetti and handed the trophy, Faizan was in tears at the side of the stage, accepting hugs from other spellers. A few minutes earlier, he had hugged his good friend, Shrey Parikh, after Shrey was eliminated onstage.

Bruhat, a seventh-grader from Tampa, Florida, extended his winning streak to four, having won three prior spelling bees en route to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

He won the Words of Wisdom bee hosted by Scott Remer, a former speller, coach and study guide author. He won the SpellPundit bee organized by that study guide company. And he won the first-ever online bee emceed by Dev Shah, last year's Scripps National Spelling Bee champion.

Shradha Rachamreddy, who finished third last year and was a consensus favorite to go all the way, was eliminated Wednesday on exactly the sort of "super short, tricky word" she said she concentrated on studying after misspelling "orle" last year. This year it was "varan," a type of lizard. She added an extra "r," and former spellers in the audience gasped at her mistake.

"I am in shock and despair," said Dev Shah, the 2023 champion.

"We all thought she was going to win," added Charlotte Walsh, last year's runner-up.

Eight spellers pose for a photo after completing the semifinals of the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Starting in the quarterfinals, the bee's word panel can use any of the more than half a million words in Webster's Unabridged dictionary, plus some geographical names that aren't even listed in that volume.

While the panel tries to maintain a consistent level of difficulty in each round, it can vary from word to word.

This year's other finalists included finalists are Rishabh Saha, 14; Shrey Parikh, 12; Aditi Muthukumar, 13; YY Liang, 12; Ananya Rao Prassanna, 13; and Kristen Tiffany Santos, 13.

The number of finalists was the fewest since 2010 when Scripps had to stop a semifinal round out of fear it would bring too few spellers to the primetime telecast, then on ABC.

The bee is now broadcast on Ion — owned by Scripps, a Cincinnati-based media company — and when Wednesday's last semifinal round had a lengthy delay after six of the first 10 spellers missed their words, a similar stoppage didn't appear out of the question.

Scripps said the delay was due to the technical issues that plagued the bee all day. Live results weren't posted as usual, and at one point, former champion Kavya Shivashankar, tasked with saying a heartfelt goodbye to spellers who heard the bell, was handed the biography of the wrong speller and began reading it before the crowd informed her of the mix-up.

Despite some surprising eliminations in the semifinals, the eight finalists are the usual impressive group — albeit on the young side. Only three are eighth-graders in their final year of eligibility.

Shrey and Faizan are close friends with Bruhat, and all three are tutored by Evans.

"I'm not really surprised that any of my students have made it this far. I know that they are all prepared. They have what it takes to win, all of them," Evans said.

Bruhat in particular has impressed his coach and other onlookers with his clear command of the dictionary.

"We get through so many words per class, more than I've seen with any other speller. His work ethic is incredible," Evans said. "Once he misses a word, he very rarely would miss it again. He sees it and he remembers it."

Faizan became a crowd favorite during the semifinals for his fist-pumping excitement when he spelled correctly, and for his empathy — he rushed over and gave a big hug to his good friend Aryan Khedkar when Aryan was eliminated.

"It was just so sad to see him lose in his last year," Faizan said. "So I just wanted to be supportive and, like, get him through this tough time."

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.