FINALISTS

Speller No. 1, Victor Sutton
Adventure Travel, Birmingham, Alabama
Age 12, 7th grade
School: J.F. Drake Middle School
Hometown: Auburn, Alabama

Victor has a knack for formulas, both those with letters and numbers. With his keen interest in mathematics, it's common to find Victor tracking the DOW or teaching himself how to crack proofs during his down time. A well-rounded student, Victor is also interested in literature, as shown through his involvement in a book club called "LitWits." At school Victor sings in the choir, and he has also formed a Students' Rights Party which has organized some small protests. A big fan of Doctor Who, Victor dressed up as the "Fourth Doctor," played by Tom Baker, last Halloween.

Speller No. 5, Marcus Behling
Arizona Educational Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Arizona College Prep
Hometown: Chandler, Arizona

To say Marcus enjoys spending time on the soccer field is an understatement. In addition to playing and refereeing, Marcus loves watching games on TV and cheering for his favorite player, Lionel Messi. Beyond his involvement in soccer, he also plays the alto saxophone and enjoys studying both Latin and Spanish at school. In his free time Marcus likes playing with his Chihuahua, "Penny," and being outdoors. Marcus is active with the Boy Scouts of America and has already achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

Speller No. 9, Eesha Sohail
KERO 23 ABC, Bakersfield, California
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Norris Middle School
Hometown: Bakersfield, California

Eesha hopes to one day study medicine and become a doctor, which may explain her admiration for American Red Cross founder Clara Barton. It’s no surprise that Eesha loves science and is active in regional science fairs and science bowls. In her free time, Eesha loves writing her own stories, drawing inspiration from her many activities including her favorite sports — archery and tennis. Eesha previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014.

Speller No. 12, Jillian Fusi
Imperial Valley Press, El Centro, California
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Calvary Chapel Christian School
Hometown: Imperial, California

Jillian has a sharp eye in the literal sense. An avid 4-H participant, Jillian prides herself on her rifle shooting skills. In addition to rifle shooting, she also enjoys drama, tap dancing and watching classic television shows. With a taste for history and the judicial system, Jillian would love to see the Supreme Court in action and hopes to one day be a lawyer herself. One of Jillian's three Chihuahua mixes is named Cashmere — a word she was asked to spell at her regional spelling bee! Jillian previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013.

Speller No. 13, Cooper Komatsu
Los Angeles Spelling Bee Collaborative, Los Angeles, California
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Culver City Middle School
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Cooper sees endless opportunities in a single word. It’s hard to stop Cooper from anagramming, whether he’s in the car, playing basketball or even while running cross country, although he tries to quiet his mind while practicing yoga. A state-level National Geographic Bee participant, Cooper likes to learn about geography and other cultures in his free time, and he's fluent in Japanese. One day he would love to visit Reykjavik, Iceland, to see the Northern Lights. Cooper participates in numerous Math Olympiad competitions, and that competitive nature runs in the family — his grandfather Robert Rosenburg competed at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1955!

Speller No. 15, Jenna-May Ingal
The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, California
Age 14, 8th grade
School: James Workman Middle School
Hometown: Cathedral City, California

An accomplished musician, Jenna-May enjoys playing and listening to music, as well as dancing to it. She plays not only violin and piano, but also ukulele. She stays busy competing in track meets, dance competitions and the school science fair, and has won awards in all three. She enjoys math and science, and she hopes to one day combine those interests and become a pharmacist. In the meantime, though, she loves catching a movie like her favorite, Big Hero 6, or watching an NBA game. Jenna-May’s favorite player to root for is LeBron James.

Speller No. 16, Snehaa Ganesh Kumar
The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, California
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Folsom Middle School
Hometown: FOLSOM, California

Snehaa is fascinated with ancient Greek history, culture and mythology, and would love to visit Athens someday. An artistic soul, Snehaa loves drawing, crafting jewelry, writing stories, playing the violin and dancing. Snehaa has performed jazz, contemporary dance and ballet for four years. To Snehaa, spelling itself is an art, and she has competed in a wide array of spelling bees — including a Spanish spelling bee when she was only a kindergartner! A pet lover, Snehaa is especially drawn to dogs, and she's been caring for a tropical fish (a danio) named Juliet for the past three years.

Speller No. 29, Sylvie Lamontagne
The Denver Post, Denver, Colorado
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Creighton Middle School
Hometown: Lakewood, Colorado

Sylvie likes to keep moving. If she's not running races or dancing, she's hiking those stunning Colorado mountains — nearly 100 miles of them in 2014. Back at home, Sylvie enjoys caring for her seven fish and two chinchillas. With an aquarium full of mostly unnamed fish (minus her plecostomus, Winnie), Sylvie is inspired to learn more about marine biology and will perhaps work with aquatic life after college. In the near future, Sylvie plans to exercise her creative side by writing some Harry Potter fan fiction. One of her favorite hobbies is correcting grammar and spelling errors, so we can expect top-notch writing out of Sylvie!

Speller No. 35, Vaishnavi Suren
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Julia Landon College Preparatory
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

Vaishnavi loves adding Disney movies to her collection as soon as they are out of the vault — her all-time favorite is Tarzan. Her fascination with Disney is part of a greater love for animated movies, and it is fitting that one of her favorite hobbies is drawing. In addition to the visual arts, Vaishnavi has received a Superior in piano level five for her talents. She is also skilled in a form of classical Indian dance called Bharata Natyam.

Speller No. 39, Siyona Mishra
Orlando Sentinel Communications, Orlando, Florida
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Orlando Science Middle High School
Hometown: Orlando, Florida

Siyona likes to read, listen to music and dance, and her checklist of must-see prehistoric sites includes Easter Island, Stonehenge and Mohenjo Daro. One of Siyona's favorite hobbies is solving math problems, and she is on her school Mathcounts team and math club. She has also been selected as a Broadcom MASTERS nominee. In her free time, Siyona loves challenging herself with chess or taking on a friend at badminton.

Speller No. 45, Monisha Mahadevan
Georgia Association of Educators, Tucker, Georgia
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Woodward Academy
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Mona enjoys writing fiction stories and poetry or blogging, but one of her favorite subjects to read, study and talk about is particle physics. Mona's interests in the art of language and the analytical thinking of science have helped her effectively make arguments at debate tournaments. In addition to debating, she competes in Mathcounts and Math League. In her spare time, Mona likes to play the piano.

Speller No. 62, Aniket Nuthalapati
Lake County Regional Office of Education, Grayslake, Illinois
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Aptakisic Junior High School
Hometown: Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Aniket enjoys volunteering with community service ventures, particularly Feed My Starving Children, an organization committed to feeding hungry children worldwide. He considers Mahatma Gandhi to be his role model because of how much Gandhi accomplished in a peaceful way. A strong student in math and science, Aniket competed in his state science fair and has also won a regional history competition, and he hopes to study pediatrics in college. Aniket is also interested in a wide variety of sports, including football and swimming, and he plays the cello.

Speller No. 76, Cy Orentlicher
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis , Indianapolis, Indiana
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Hasten Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

A strong competitor if you’re challenging him to a game of Risk or Settlers of Catan, Cy finds history, politics and the development of culture interesting. Cy is eager to travel to Europe and visit the major landmarks, although he has already been to Israel about a dozen times, and his favorite historical figure is artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci. He is passionate about physics — whether it’s astrophysics or nuclear physics — and enjoys logic puzzles and reading. Cy previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013.

Speller No. 87, Sara-Beth McPherson
Jamaica Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Holy Childhood High School
Hometown: Kingston, Kingston

Sara-Beth is fascinated by the art of communication, and it has motivated her to learn multiple languages, including sign language. With her ability to communicate, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sara-Beth is a top-notch storyteller. She is also an avid reader, especially if there’s a Nancy Drew mystery on hand. Sara-Beth’s other hobbies include playing tennis, swimming, dancing, singing and playing the piano. Although Sara-Beth says literature is her strongest subject at school, she hopes to pursue a career in accounting. 

Speller No. 90, Vanya Shivashankar
The Olathe News, Olathe, Kansas
Age 13, 8th grade
School: California Trail Middle School
Hometown: Olathe, Kansas

Vanya isn’t afraid of being on stage in front of a bunch of strangers. Whether she’s spelling at the microphone or acting in a play, she enjoys entertaining and performing. In addition to acting, Vanya also plays tuba and piano, and she recently won the Mid-America Music Association award for Exceptional Pianist and Jazz Pianist. When she’s not performing, Vanya likes to hang out and eat pizza with her sister Kavya (the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion), who is Vanya's role model. Vanya swears that she could (and would) eat pizza every single day for the rest of her life. She likes riding her bike and swimming, and is involved at school with the WEB Team and KAY Club. Vanya previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2010, 2012 (tied for 10th place), 2013 (tied for 5th place) and 2014 (tied for 13th place).

Speller No. 92, Paul Keaton
Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, Lexington, Kentucky
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Christ Central School
Hometown: Pikeville, Kentucky

Paul dreams of one day starting his own business and would love the chance to meet Donald Trump to get some business advice. In his free time, one of Paul’s interests is following publicly traded companies. Paul enjoys trivia and watching his favorite television show, Jeopardy! In addition to playing basketball and chess, Paul likes listening to classical music. Paul's sister Emily competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee from 2009 to 2013, when she tied for 13th. Paul and Emily enjoy spelling against one another, but they have agreed not to compete against each other after they had such a lengthy stalemate that the county spelling bee was suspended and other children were sent home. Paul previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014 (tied for 13th place).

Speller No. 112, Christy Jestin
Boston Centers for Youth & Families, Boston, Massachusetts
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Boston Latin School
Hometown: West Roxbury, Massachusetts

Christy considers his father his role model because of his wide range of interests and abilities, including hunting, fishing and gardening. Two of Christy's favorite foods are ones his dad might find while on the hunt — bear meat and deer cutlet. When he is not woodworking or playing with his pet rabbit, Gingerbread, Christy likes playing soccer and competing in math and science competitions. He is on his school Mathcounts team and participates in the National Junior Classical League for Latin. In the future, Christy hopes to study computer and mechanical engineering. Christy previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014.

Speller No. 117, Lily Mears
Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Lakeshore Middle School
Hometown: Grand Haven, Michigan

Talented at writing in hieroglyphs (and Elvish script from The Lord of the Rings), Lily loves studying ancient culture and communication. Two of her favorite topics to learn about are ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, and she is also interested in cryptography. Lily hopes to study archaeology in college and plans to be an archaeologist, or possibly an artist. In her free time, Lily likes drawing, painting and creating things with her hands; she has even drawn, colored and cut out 81 Batman characters. Lily is in art club, and she is also involved with theater and orchestra, where she plays viola. 

Speller No. 122, Nathaniel Britton
The Macomb Daily, Macomb, Michigan
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Shelby Junior High School
Hometown: Macomb, Michigan

Nate likes finding new challenges, and his next will come as he enters a specialized high school program in the fall that focuses on mathematics, science and technology. It’s a perfect fit for Nate, who broke his school record reciting 150 digits of pi during the fourth grade. Outside of school, Nate competes on a travel soccer team and runs track. He also enjoys reading — two of his favorite books are Soccernomics and The Hobbit. Nate would have loved to talk with Albert Einstein about how Einstein used his imagination and creativity to find new solutions to old problems. Nate previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2012 and 2014. 

Speller No. 128, Maxwell Meyer
Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Minnetonka Middle School East
Hometown: Shorewood, Minnesota

Max made an impression from day one, weighing almost 11 pounds at birth! Outside of spelling, he enjoys theater, sports and music. Max started playing baseball when he was in preschool and since then has added basketball, tennis, golf and karate to the athletics rotation. He enjoys reading and writing, and he has always been fascinated with words and languages. One day he would love to travel through Europe to try out the French and Spanish that he knows, and to grow his foreign coin collection. Max spends his free time acting in community theater, hanging out with friends, participating in his church youth group and eating sushi every chance he gets.

Speller No. 130, Christine Farnberg
Southeast Service Cooperative , Rochester, Minnesota
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Holy Spirit School
Hometown: Byron, Minnesota

Christine always takes the good luck of finding a penny to heart, especially before her spelling bees. She spends much of her extra time training to be a figure skater. From singles to synchronized skating, Christine is at home on the ice. She also participates in a youth orchestra and plays four instruments total: clarinet, French horn, cello and piano. To relax, Christine spends quality time with her pet rabbits, Marshmallow and Hoppers. She loves animals and hopes to study biology at college to prepare her for a career as a veterinarian. Christine previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014.

Speller No. 132, Dev Jaiswal
Mississippi Association of Educators, Jackson, Mississippi
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Winston Academy
Hometown: Louisville , Mississippi

Dev’s love for video games goes beyond the fun of playing; he has an acute appreciation for video game music as well. When he isn’t playing video games, Dev is often reading or playing basketball. He is very dedicated to karate and has won a number of awards in martial arts. Dev likes pretty much any food as long as it’s made by his mom — and as long as it doesn't include mustard, which he's never tried. When he is older, he hopes to become an astronaut. Dev's sister Rani participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2010, and Dev previously participated in 2012.

Speller No. 136, River Blount
Three Rivers Community College, Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Pineywoods Christian Academy
Hometown: Annapolis, Missouri

River can’t really say which television show is his favorite because he’s never had a television in the house. He doesn't seem to miss it, though, because he enjoys spending time outside riding his bike and playing soccer. A part of a homesteading family, River likes working on the latest project — building a straw bale house. River was recently selected to attend a college preparatory school in St. Louis based on his academic performance and achievements. When he isn’t studying, he helps out at his church and is involved in the youth activities. In the future, River hopes to become a rocket scientist for NASA. 

Speller No. 140, Gokul Venkatachalam
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Parkway West Middle School
Hometown: Chesterfield, Missouri

Gokul takes to spelling like his idol LeBron James does to basketball. In addition to playing basketball, Gokul is a fan of rap and alternative music, counting among his favorite artists Nas, Linkin Park and Macklemore. When he's not listening to music, he likes to read — his top pick is Life of Pi — or watch his favorite movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past. At school, Gokul is drawn to math and economics. He dreams of attending Stanford University and studying business so that he can become an entrepreneur or a stockbroker. Gokul previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2012 (tied for 10th place), 2013 (tied for 19th place) and 2014 (3rd place). 

Speller No. 144, Arushi Kalpande
New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester, New Hampshire
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School
Hometown: Billerica, Massachusetts

Arushi’s passion is linguistics; already fluent in Marathi, English and Hindi, her list of languages to learn includes Spanish, German, Latin, Greek, French and Italian. She is also a published poet. Arushi’s activities include participating annually with her school’s Mathcounts team and playing the violin in the Nashoba Youth Orchestra. While Arushi finds formulas, patterns and equations fun and challenging, her favorite subject at school is science. One day she imagines combining the two studies and becoming a physicist. Arushi previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014.

Speller No. 153, Jairam Hathwar
Corning Rotary Club, Corning, New York
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Alternative School for Math and Science
Hometown: Painted Post, New York

Jairam is a big fan of jazz music, but he also enjoys listening to Bruno Mars when he’s taking a break from playing the saxophone in his school's jazz band. When it comes to sports, Jairam prefers skiing, table tennis and basketball, and he can challenge you to a competitive round of golf. Jairam excels at science and has won many science fair awards. He would love to visit the Galápagos Islands one day to see the exotic animals that inspired Charles Darwin. Jairam comes from a spelling family: His brother Sriram competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee a total of five times and became co-champion in 2014. 

Speller No. 158, Sai Vishudhi Chandrasekhar
Daily News, New York, New York
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Hunter College High School
Hometown: Flushing, New York

Sai Vishudhi is a New Yorker at heart, from her MetroCard to her seat in the New York Youth Symphony. She enjoys figure skating and photography, and in her free time she likes to listen to R&B music and read — her current favorite book is The Joy Luck Club. Sai Vishudhi is very competitive when it comes to her extracurricular activities; she has received awards at science fairs, in writing and mathematics competitions, and for website design. She channels a similar competitiveness into lacrosse games. Sai Vishudhi previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013 and 2014 (tied for 32nd place).

Speller No. 159, Srinath Mahankali
Daily News, New York, New York
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74
Hometown: Bayside Hills, New York

Srinath likes spending time onstage outside of spelling bees: He enjoys theater and starred as "Willy Wonka" in a production of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Another hobby of his is tennis, and he admires tennis star Rafael Nadal. At school, Srinath is on the math team and participates in student office. He most wants to visit the White House while in Washington, D.C., because he figures it would give him his best chance of meeting the President. This is Srinath's first Bee, but his older brother Arvind competed four times beginning in 2009, and is the 2013 national champion.

Speller No. 164, Dylan O'Connor
Watertown Daily Times, Watertown, New York
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Alexandria Central School
Hometown: Alexandria Bay, New York

Dylan likes to play basketball — it's his favorite sport — and he also participates in his school's French and science clubs. He plays both piano and percussion, and plays in concert band. Among Dylan’s accolades are various honor rolls, membership in the National Junior Honor Society and a New York State Senate Award. In addition to being an avid Pokémon player, Dylan also likes listening to different kinds of classical music and playing trivia games. Dylan previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2012, 2013 and 2014, where he tied for 13th place.

Speller No. 167, Akshra Paimagam
The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Randolph Middle School
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Akshra can show you first through fifth position with complete ease. Currently studying with the Charlotte Ballet, Akshra enjoys the performing and visual arts. She plays second violin in the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra and has won a national award for her art. To practice spelling, Akshra looks at the roots that make up the word and then sees how they connect to the spelling. Her deep understanding of language has helped strengthen her creative writing skills as well. Akshra's favorite movie is Despicable Me, and she is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Malala Yousafzai.

Speller No. 173, Rohan Sachdev
PAGE of Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Cary Homeschoolers
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina

Rohan loves competition because it pushes him to improve, and that means he is always in search of his next challenge. Life for Rohan is lived on the tennis court. Rohan plays all the way up to national United States Tennis Association events, and he has a top five ranking in North Carolina and in the southern region. If Good Luck Charlie is on television, Rohan may sit and relax a moment, but he’s quickly off to another activity — playing table tennis, re-reading the Harry Potter series or challenging someone to a basketball game. Later in life, Rohan might like to pursue a degree in medicine, but his plan A continues to be a career in professional tennis.

Speller No. 181, Owen Kovalik
Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Medina Christian Academy
Hometown: Medina, Ohio

Whereas many young children had imaginary friends, Owen was a bit more ambitious: He had an imaginary club! Owen often combines socializing with his hobbies, competing at Nintendo games like Super Smash Brothers, collecting Pokémon cards and playing baseball. This fall, Owen will join a robotics club, where he and like-minded students can work on mechanical science challenges. With accolades in regional science fairs and math competitions, Owen is excited to combine his interests in the study of robotics. One of Owen’s favorite endeavors is his music, which he likes to style after his favorite classical composers of the Romantic era, Antonín Dvořák and Johannes Brahms. He plays four instruments including the violin, piano and clarinet, but he has a unique admiration for and fascination with the simple recorder. True to his geographic roots, Owen’s favorite meal is Cincinnati chili. 

Speller No. 183, Lipika Narisetti
Ohio University Libraries , Athens, Ohio
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Hilliard Heritage Middle School
Hometown: Hilliard, Ohio

Look at Lipika's ears and you might see bee earrings; she believes that they, in addition to other "lucky" items of jewelry from her friends and family, bring her good fortune on spelling bee days. Lipika has competed in spelling bees since kindergarten, and has collected a number of awards over the years. Part of her knack for spelling comes from the amount of time she spends reading and writing. She particularly enjoys drafting short stories and essays, some of them award-winning. In addition to her honors for writing and spelling, Lipika has also successfully competed in science fairs. In the future, she aspires to apply her talent in science to a career as a neurosurgeon.

Speller No. 185, Manu Nair
WCPO 9 On Your Side, Cincinnati, Ohio
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Gray Middle School
Hometown: Union, Kentucky

You can find both Manu's first and last names in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, so he claims them as his favorite words. President of the National Junior Honor Society at his school, Manu also competes with his school's academic team and this year led the team to a top 24 finish statewide. As the winner of the regional Mathcounts championship, Manu earned full four-year scholarships to both Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky. When not dominating in academics, Manu likes to play basketball and guitar. Manu cites his father as his role model, describing him as a hardworking, sincere, self-made man and "the best dad anyone can get." Manu previously competed in the Bee in 2012 and 2013.

Speller No. 186, Abhilash Yarlagadda
WCPO 9 On Your Side, Cincinnati, Ohio
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Sycamore Junior High School
Hometown: Blue Ash, Ohio

Abhilash’s initial love for doodles turned into a much larger passion for art. Among the awards he’s received, one highlight was a team-created first place t-shirt design that was chosen to be his school's spirit wear. When he’s not finessing his artwork, Abhilash participates in Latin Certamen events and has taken honors for his competitive acumen in trivia recall about classical civilizations, peoples, languages and cultures. After studying Latin and aspectss of Roman culture, Abhilash would like to visit Rome to see the structures he’s memorized for competitions. In addition to Latin and history, Abhilash most enjoys studying math and participating in Mathcounts. 

Speller No. 198, Melina Gabele
The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Mater Dei Academy
Hometown: Willoughby, Ohio

Melina enjoys acting, and she participates in her school's musical every year. She also volunteers with Youth Challenge, an organization which provides sports and recreation opportunities for children with physical disabilities. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, playing Scrabble, coordinating outfits, doing makeup and hanging out with friends. She also enjoys listening to music and watching Netflix. At school, Melina really likes science, and she wants to pursue a career in that field in the future. Melina previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014.

Speller No. 200, Cole Shafer-Ray
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Alcott Middle School
Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma

While he is in Washington, D.C., Cole hopes to have a chance to see his first Major League Soccer game. He plays the sport competitively himself, and would love to meet professional soccer player Lionel Messi and get some tips. When it comes to learning about history, Cole's accomplishments mirror his spelling success, as he will compete in the National History Bee in May. To relax, Cole likes listening to rap and hip hop, and playing FIFA 15. Cole previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013 and 2014. 

Speller No. 207, William Yaeger
LNP Always Lancaster, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Centerville Middle School
Hometown: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Will’s interest in herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles, is not purely academic: He’s the proud owner of several salamanders and a few toads. When not attending to his amphibious brood, Will enjoys reading, swimming, running long distance, playing chess and rock collecting. He is also working on his Eagle Scout rank with the Boy Scouts of America, and participates in several academic competitions including Mathcounts and the Pennsylvania Geographic Bee. In the future, Will hopes to attend MIT and pursue a career in the sciences or engineering.

Speller No. 234, Smrithi Upadhyayula
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Coppell Middle School West
Hometown: Coppell, Texas

Smrithi may be her school’s only piccolo player, but she has a voice that stands out above the rest. As a singer, she loves to participate in her school's choir and was named the all-region choir first chair. She was also selected for the American Choral Directors Association National Honor Choir.  When she isn’t singing, Smrithi is writing songs about random things she sees, including chairs and pillows.  In the future, she hopes to study science in college, and ultimately to pursue a career in microbiology. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to classical music and writing — she is currently working on a novel.

Speller No. 236, Michelle Yakubek
Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Harmony Science Academy Euless
Hometown: Bedford, Texas

A devoted fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise, Michelle hand-painted her bedroom in the spirit of Middle Earth. The Hobbit is her favorite book at the moment (though she read almost 200 novels in 2014), and the popular movie series has her planning a future trip to New Zealand, where it was filmed. Michelle’s other interests include 3D printing and design, as well as computer programming. When she grows up, Michelle would like to be an engineer.

Speller No. 237, Shobha Dasari
Houston Public Media, Houston, Texas
Age 14, 8th grade
School: McCullough Junior High School
Hometown: Spring, Texas

Science is Shobha's best subject in school, and she was a regional finalist in the microbiology category at the Science Engineering Fair of Houston. She wants to someday pursue a career as a medical researcher, and plans to study medicine in college. In her free time, Shobha enjoys arts and crafts, reading and playing the viola. She also likes to dance Bharata Natyam, an Indian classical dance, and build her word knowledge by participating in the Vocabulary.com Vocabulary Bowl. Shobha previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013, tying for 19th place, and 2014 where she tied for 32nd place.

Speller No. 238, Siddharth Krishnakumar
Houston Public Media, Houston, Texas
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Pearland Junior High West
Hometown: Pearland, Texas

Siddharth's best subject in school is math, and he participates in the math and science club. He is also a member of his school's Future Problem Solving club, and he placed 6th in Junior Team Global Issues Problem Solving at the Future Problem Solving Program International Conference in 2014. In his downtime, Siddharth enjoys reading, listening to music and playing tennis. In the future, he would like to study robotics engineering at MIT.

Speller No. 246, Muriel Cotman
Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas
Age 14, 8th grade
School: The Acorn School
Hometown: Cuero, Texas

Muriel knows her stuff when it comes to music: She plays the piano at her church and has also won the Texas Music Teachers Association Publication Contest. To stay active, Muriel participates in tennis and takes two different dance classes. In her spare time, she enjoys reading lots of books — especially biographies — and listening to vinyl records on her family's old record player. In the future, she would like to pursue a career in journalism. Muriel previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014, tying for 37th place.

Speller No. 255, Samuel Pereles
The News-Virginian and The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Kate Collins Middle School
Hometown: Waynesboro, Virginia

Interested in the arts, Samuel likes to sing, dance and act, and he participates in his school’s jazz band and drama club. To stay active, he runs, plays tennis and manages for and plays with his local high school's junior varsity soccer team. Samuel is interested in video game design and would someday like to study computer science at Harvard. This isn't Samuel's first time at the Scripps National Spelling Bee: He previously competed in the 2013 and 2014, finishing in 12th place last year. After the Bee, Samuel used some of his prize money to help fund a Little Free Library outside of his town’s public preschool.

Speller No. 259, Shiv Lamba
Leesburg Today, Leesburg, Virginia
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Loudoun Country Day School
Hometown: Centreville, Virginia

Shiv has always been interested in science and one day would like to be a physician like his father. He has attended many research camps, including Johns Hopkins University’s prestigious Center for Talented Youth Intensive Summer Program and a research program at the Centers for Disease Control this past summer. Shiv plays soccer and is an anchor player on his team, which is currently ranked second in his age group in the state of Virginia. Shiv enjoys spending time with his family, and considers himself lucky to be part of such a great support system.

Speller No. 261, Ankita Vadiala
Prince William Today, Manassas, Virginia
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Stonewall Middle School
Hometown: Manassas, Virginia

Ankita is creative: she loves to write, enjoys dancing and considers herself quite the thespian. At school, she is a member of the VEX Robotics club and has participated in robotics competitions. She is also an editor for her school's yearbook and performs with her school's chamber orchestra. A big fan of anime and Japanese culture, Ankita is "head-over-heels" when it comes to Japanese music, clothing and food, and she would someday love to travel there. Ankita previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014 and placed 13th.

Speller No. 264, Tejas Muthusamy
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia
Age 12, 6th grade
School: George H. Moody Middle School
Hometown: Glen Allen, Virginia

Tejas takes time to see the world from different perspectives. He has observed it from the Empire State Building in New York City, Chicago's Willis Tower and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. While in Washington, D.C., he hopes to visit the International Spy Museum because of his appreciation for the work that they do while facing life-or-death situations. Tejas swims, practices karate and Indian Classical dance, and also enjoys hiking on trails in the Appalachian Mountains. His varied interests will undoubtedly help to lead him to his dream school, Harvard University, where he hopes to study biology or public policy. Tejas previously competed in 2014 (tied for 8th place).

Speller No. 282, Arjun Jagjivan
Sedgwick Middle School, West Hartford, Connecticut
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Sedgwick Middle School
Hometown: West Hartford, Connecticut

Along with his teammates, Arjun beat out 52 other teams to claim the title of 2015 USA Kids' Lit Quiz champion and is moving on to the international competition this July. Always on the move, Arjun traveled to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, is actively engaged in community service with his Boy Scout troop, is on his local library's teen advisory board, and plays violin with both a select orchestra at his school and with Intermid, a town-wide middle school group of string players. In his down time, Arjun loves to read and watch movies, and his favorite dessert is tiramisu.

Speller No. 284, Katharine Wang
The Peck School, Morristown, New Jersey
Age 13, 8th grade
School: The Peck School
Hometown: Morristown, New Jersey

Katharine is very interested in languages. Already fluent in Chinese, English and German, she is learning French, Spanish and Latin. Beyond speaking, though, she enjoys finding out about the origins of different languages and their histories. Well-traveled, Katharine has lived in Singapore, China and the United States in the last ten years and has attended nine different schools in that same time. In the future, she would like to study biochemistry in college and pursue a career in oncology. Katharine previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2012, 2013 (where she tied for 33rd place) and 2014.


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