Indian American Dev Shah wins 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling ‘psammophile’

Dev Shah, 14, from Largo, Fla., reacts as he wins the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee (Photo / USA Today)

OXON HILL, Md. (TIP): Dev Shah, an eighth-grader from Largo, Florida, spelled “psammophile” correctly to win the 95th national Bee and the $50,000 prize on Thursday, June 1. Charlotte Walsh, the hometown kid from just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, could not nail “daviely” in the preceding round. Walsh’s prize was $25,000 for the second-place finish, while the third-place finishers ― Shradha Rachamreddy and Surya Kapu ― each won $12,500. With time running out on Scripps’ intended broadcast window, the judges could have called for a “spell-off,” a 90-second window for competitors to spell as many words as they can. Instead, they allowed Shan and Walsh to duke it out in one final orthographic volley. “It’s surreal,” Shah said onstage after confetti fell on his head and he lifted the trophy high above. “I don’t know if it’s settled in. My legs are still shaking.”

Minutes later, still onstage, Shah felt the same way. “I made a lot of sacrifices these last three months and I’m glad I made them,” Shah said. “I’m glad to now get back what I sacrificed.” Shah cut back on his extracurricular activities to dedicate more time to the dictionary. Some days he would not even go to school since exams were over. He’d be better off studying, Shah figured.

“I knew I had to study,” Shah said. “It paid off.”

What was the winning word at 2023 Spelling Bee?
Shah’s spelling bee-clinching word was “psammophile.”

According to Merriam-Webster, a psammophile is “an organism that prefers or thrives in sandy soils or areas.”

Other words that Shah correctly spelled during the competition include: bathypitotmeter, tolsester, rommack, aegagrus, schistorrhachis, poliorcetics, Perioeci, exhortation, cocomat and ardoise. The moment he heard the word, Shah knew he had the Bee in his pocket. Rachamreddy and Kapu could not make it through the fifth round of the evening and finished tied for third. It was a heartbreaking outcome for Kapu, who finished tied for fifth last year. He was the lone repeat finalist from the previous year and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Due to time constraints of a two-hour broadcast window and the eight-way tie for the title in 2019, Scripps two years ago invented the spell-off, which debuted in last year’s championship, won by Harini Logan.

That didn’t stop Bee organizers from bringing out the buzzers in anticipation. With a new prop in her way, Walsh correctly spelled “collembolous” to secure her spot among the final two. A half hour after Shah won, she returned to the stage to offer a congratulatory hug. “I don’t feel like I was competing against anyone,” Shah said. “In between rounds, and even during rounds, we would congratulate each other. That’s what separates the Spelling Bee from other competitions. Everyone’s in there together.”
(Source: USA Today)

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