R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Pacelli’s Nanda headed to Scripps National Spelling Bee in May

Published 6:59 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

After spelling her way into v-i-c-t-o-r-y during the Southeast Minnesota Spelling Bee last week, Neha Thawani Nanda has her eyes on the prize: competing at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Securing her recent win with the word “patronage,” the 14-year-old Pacelli Catholic School eighth-grader found herself getting ready for the next level of competition at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, from May 26 through May 31 for Bee Week.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the oldest spelling bee competition in the United States, and Nanda will compete against other students from all over the country to earn the title of national champion.

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Before Nanda can compete onstage, she will need to qualify by competing in the preliminaries on May 27. If she is successful, Pacelli Catholic School could see itself represented on the national stage during the bee’s televised broadcast on ESPN.

“Since I made it, I would like to represent my school and southeast Minnesota well,” Nanda said in an interview Monday morning. “That feeling you get when you spell a word correctly, you just feel proud of yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

During the regional competition held in Rochester, Nanda said there were words that completely caught her by surprise. Some of the words were not on her study sheet, but the spelling bee champ kept her cool. Nanda made it to regionals twice, but this would be the first time she qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I was shocked at first that I won, but then I was really happy,” she said. “Getting to that level was already such an accomplishment, and all the other spellers did really well too.”

Nanda is the second Pacelli Catholic School student to head off to the national spelling bee. The first was Shane DeSilva back in 2014.

Neha Thawani Nanda, 14, a Pacelli Catholic School eighth grade student, will be heading off to Washington D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 26.
Hannah Yang/hannah.yang@austindailyherald.com

The makings of a champion

To prepare for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Nanda’s routine won’t divert too much from how she prepared for the regional spelling bee. Her daily routine consists of getting her homework done as soon as she gets home from school, and then spending the rest of the night studying her spelling list.

“I use Merriam-Webster and Britannica,” Nanda said of her study aids. “I also use something called Valerie’s Spelling Bee Supplement to help me as well. I always start with a list and focus on the country of origin. Usually it gives me an idea of how a word might be spelled.”

Nanda’s mother originally introduced spelling bees to her back in fourth grade. Since then, Nanda has become hooked on spelling whatever words came in front of her. She considered herself a decent speller before getting invested into spelling bees, but now finds joy in spelling words like tchotchke. Slavik in origin, the word refers to a small bauble or trinket.

Her word of advice to those looking to get into spelling: take deep breaths and focus on how the word sounds. Ask for the country of origin, and have fun. With the support of her teachers and classmates at Pacelli, Nanda is more confident to represent Austin.

“It’s been amazing, and a huge part is because of all the staff here at Pacelli,” she said. “Just a big thank-you to Ms. Mareel and Mrs. McDermott and all the staff. Pacelli is really like a family, and they helped me so much.”