Eighth-grader wins spelling bee with 'cymotrichous'
June 3rd, 2011
12:18 AM ET

Eighth-grader wins spelling bee with 'cymotrichous'

Pennsylvania teen Sukanya Roy was tantalizingly close to the Scripps National Spelling Bee's final rounds in previous years. Now, she's taken the prize.

Sukanya, 14, won the annual spell-off Thursday night with the word cymotrichous, which means having wavy hair, topping 274 other contestants over two days and 20 rounds.

After nailing the last word, the eighth-grader covered her smile with a shaky hand, and moments later lifted a trophy that was handed to her at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

"It's just amazing. It's hard to find the words" to describe the feeling, Sukanya (pictured) told ESPN's Rob Stone after she won.

She had a lot less trouble spelling the words she needed to win.

Among the 13 words she spelled correctly in Thursday night’s finals were psephomancy (divination by pebbles), pyopoiesis (the formation of pus), and völkerwanderung (the migration of nations).

Sukanya, an eighth-grader from South Abington Township who tied for 12th place at the competition in 2009 and 20th in 2010, outlasted 12 other finalists Thursday in a nearly three-hour session televised by ESPN.

The runner-up, three-time Canadian spelling champion Laura Newcombe, 12, of Toronto, missed the word sorites (an aggregation of related things) after correctly spelling such words as panguingue  (a kind of card game) and cheongsam (a type of dress).

Thursday night also ended another remarkable performance for Pennsylvania eighth-grader Joanna Ye, 14. She finished tied for third, one year after her hometown, Carlisle, honored her with a "Joanna Ye Day" for finishing the 2010 contest tied for fifth.

Also making a second straight deep run was sixth-grader Arvind Mahankali, 11, of Forest Hills, New York. He finished tied for third after finishing ninth last year.

Sukanya won more than $40,000 worth of prizes, including $30,000 cash and a $5,000 scholarship. She told ESPN that she knew how to spell the last word immediately after it was read to her.

"My heart started pounding, I guess," she said. "I couldn’t believe it."

Preliminaries began Wednesday morning with 275 spellers. Forty-one contestants went on to Thursday morning’s semifinals.

The bee, which takes champions from various regional contests, is open to students who are under 16 and haven’t passed beyond the eighth grade.

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soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. DrAmy

    It truly is amazing how education driven Indian families are. Way to go!

    June 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe in Colorado

    I feel really sorry for these kids.

    We have an Indian family as neighbors, and their two boys I have seen outside exactly one time. During the winter when my son and his friends were out building snowmen and having snowball fights, those two boys could be seen looking out the window and wishing they could join, before being ushered back to their studies.,

    Yes, these kids may win a spelling bee someday, but can they kick a soccer ball like my son, or play Beethoven on the piano like my son, or have friends like my son?

    I don't know. I can see the value of education, but not at the expense of childhood. The Indians seems to value chlidhood very little from what I've seen.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ultimate Avenger

      Joe in Colorado, what makes you think ALL Indian families are like that? If Timothy McVeigh was my next door neighbor, should I judge all European Americans by his actions? Even growing up in India, I had a much more adventurous childhood than any you or your kids can even imagine. And guess what, I graduated near the top of my class in India AND the United States. Don't hate! If you say the Spelling Bee yesterday, it was obviously she was really happy and into it. For some people their interests and soccer or music. For others, it's the spelling bee and being academically driven.

      June 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe in Colorado

      I don't hate, I feel sorry for these kids. It would be interesting to do an interview with this girl and see how her childhood has been. See if she can carry on a normal conversation?

      June 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Penn teacher

      So sorry for your neighbor kids, but be cautious about making sweeping generalizations about families of any race or ethnic origin.
      It is possible to be both academically driven and well-rounded.
      Bee winner Sukanya spent last summer hiking the Panama rain forest, and is an avid rock climber. She also ice skates and plays violin. She is far from "average", but she is leading a well-rounded life!
      Some spellers are driven by stern, overly-focused family members, but not all, or even most. The best are often kids who just have a "knack" for words and have turned that into a passion, along with other hobbies.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • PeterD


      I bet You are fat and ugli.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • MKSS

      Hey i just saw this comment today by chance...Indian families do expect their children to be over achievers...That does not mean they do not respect their childhood..Indian families r bonded more than other families.....Def Indians in India have a better childhood than any kid in the us..
      Hardwork shows in the results produced..

      July 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Ultimate Avenger

    I implore you to not have any kids so that your pathetic gene pool ends with you.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe in Colorado

      Who's hating now?

      June 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeJe

      "Who's hating now" Joe this is great. looks like you are reasonable person. I am sure Avenger did'nt mean that.
      But we call should agree that this kid did a great job and you cannot judge all Indians by an Indian family staying in your neighborhood.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Laura

    You will find a majority of minorities and immigrant children participating and winning spelling bees because their parents and/or caregivers value learning a new language and have passed that value on to their children. By assimilating themselves into this culture and taking the time to learn the English language they are giving their children an appreciation of language and vocabulary. What Americans take for granted other cultures have come to appreciate. Stop being hateful and judgmental about these CHILDREN and their race and spend some time carving out these values for your own kids.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JeJe

    Congrats ! for making your school and parents proud. You will inspire all the kids and their parents(like some of them here) to value education.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sue

    For Pete's sake, people, it's a SPELLING BEE. It's nice that she won it, but quit acting like her achievement is somehow a global commentary on
    1) you
    2) your values
    3) your intelligence
    4) your work ethic
    5) your ethnic background
    6) your upbringing
    7) your education or
    8) your ability to spell

    Get a life and get over it. It's a decent news story, that's all. It's not all about you.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PeterD

    Sukanya is a Sanskrit Word and it means Good Young Girl !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gavin (failed in NY Spelling Bee)

    that's WAY harder than the word I failed on. Pochismo.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. webgozar

    I don't disagree with this blog.

    November 6, 2011 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. sports equipment

    This post couldnt be more on the level...

    November 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jewelry

    This might be this blogs best read around!!!

    December 10, 2011 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. noneofyourb

    easy cymotrichous i think

    December 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
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