NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — Samhita Kumar’s run in the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended Thursday when she misspelled her third word in the finals.
The Winston Churchill Middle School sixth grader was stumped by “duxelles” (sauce with mushrooms and tomato puree) in the sixth round. She spelled it “duccelles.”
Kumar, 11, lowered her head as she stepped off the stage, but she said she won’t let herself feel too discouraged because, as a sixth grader, she has the opportunity to try again next year. Spellers can compete in the national bee through eighth grade.
“I’ve been working for Scripps for a long time. I don’t want to give up just because I missed a word. I want to come back,” Kumar said.
Out of 291 spellers, Kumar was one of 40 students who passed the preliminaries and made it to Thursday’s finals.
“It surprises me to think that I went this far. I’m still a little bit upset that I didn’t go farther but I’m mostly over that now,” Kumar said moments after stepping off the stage.
Her mother, Priya Balasubramanian, who watched nervously from the audience, said she’s proud of her daughter and looks forward to cheering her on next year if she qualifies.
“I’m very, very proud of her. I think she’ll be back,” Balasubramanian said. Both she and her husband, Nanda Natarajan, help Kumar study for the competition.
Kumar said she plans to do a bit more preparation for next year. She said she ran out of time to study everything she wanted for this year’s bee.
Rageshree Ramachandran was the last Sacramento-area speller to win the national bee in 1988.
Snehaa Ganesh Kumar, who was too old to compete this year, placed third in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2016.