Speller No. 1, Erin Howard
Adventure Travel, Birmingham, Alabama
Age 11, 5th grade
School: Mountain Gap P-8 School
Hometown: Huntsville, Alabama

Erin thinks of herself as a very creative person. She enjoys creating her own worlds and putting them into writing and role-play games with friends, as well as composing and playing music on the piano. In fact, she won first place in the state of Alabama last year for her musical composition for the Parent Teacher Association's Reflections competition. If you can't find Erin at the piano or typing up a novella, you're sure to see her watching her favorite television show, Doctor Who. She considers herself a "huge nerd" because of her deep interests in science fiction, mythology and science. Erin wants to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to take courses in biology and medicine. She dreams of becoming a pediatrician and joining the international organization Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders. 

Speller No. 5, Nicola Ferguson
Arizona Educational Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Sunrise Middle School
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

At school, Nicola's favorite subjects are science and math, and she currently aspires to be a marine biologist. She also likes learning Mandarin. Nicola has been taking violin lessons and kung fu classes for many years. When she has free time, she enjoys spending time online at Khan Academy and YouTube. She also relishes reading. Some of her favorites are the Ranger's Apprentice series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Harry Potter novels.

Speller No. 13, Cooper Komatsu
Los Angeles Spelling Bee Collaborative, Los Angeles, California
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Culver City Middle School
Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Cooper has studied Japanese since he was a kindergartener, and likes how it connects him to his ancestors' culture. He has a passion for geography, maps and discovering new places. Social studies and math are his favorite subjects. In his free time, Cooper participates on his school's cross country team, on the Lego Robotics team, and in Boy Scouts of America. He is a Los Angeles Clippers fan, but he loves the Los Angeles Lakers too. The best board game, in Cooper's opinion, will always be Scrabble. After a fourth-place finish last year, Cooper and his teammate, playing as "Lucky 13," won the North American School Scrabble Championship tournament out of 85 teams from across the United States and Canada. Cooper tied for 11th place in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and his grandfather Robert Rosenberg competed in the Bee in 1955.

Speller No. 15, Aisha Randhawa
The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, California
Age 10, 5th grade
School: Garretson Elementary School
Hometown: Corona, California

Aisha's free time is filled with playing with her dogs, reading, drawing, swimming and studying words. She also enjoys skiing, although she counts herself a novice. Aisha has a younger sister and twin brothers who are very supportive and keep her smiling. Her favorite subjects are math and science, and she recently won a sweepstakes award for her science project evaluating whether plastics are harmful to health. She hopes to attend Harvard University and eventually be an ophthalmologist, "because the eyes are the windows to the brain."

Speller No. 16, Snehaa Ganesh Kumar
The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, California
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Folsom Middle School
Hometown: Folsom, California

Snehaa started off her spelling bee journey as a kindergartner competing against 5th graders, placing second in a Spanish language spelling bee. She went on to win the school Spanish spelling bee for four consecutive years. She was the Central Valley Regional Spelling Bee finalist in 2011, placed 5th in 2012, 7th in 2013, 2nd in 2014, and won the title in 2015 and 2016. She also claimed the title of school champion in the National Geographic Bee in 2015 and 2016, and competes in Academic Pentathlon. Outside of academic competition, Snehaa is a commissioner in the Sacramento County Youth Commission and is an active participant in the National Junior Honor Society. She has been taking dance lessons for five years in jazz, contemporary and ballet. Snehaa tied for fourth place in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 20, Rutvik Gandhasri
KPIX-TV & KCBS Radio AM & FM, San Francisco, California
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Chaboya Middle School
Hometown: San Jose, California

A voracious reader, Rutvik names Fablehaven as his favorite book series. He also loves playing racing games on his Xbox One. Not just an indoor kid, Rutvik also enjoys biking, hiking and running in nature. His favorite hobby is to build Lego Technic sets, and the biggest set he's built is the 42009 Mobile Crane MK II, which has 2,606 pieces and took about two days of nonstop building to complete. He spreads his passion by volunteering for Lego Robotics classes at his elementary school and at local underprivileged schools. Rutvik loves to challenge his palate with spicy Indian, Mexican, Chinese and Middle Eastern food, and he's proud to be a lifelong vegetarian. He hopes to attend Harvard University and be a neurosurgeon, and also create his own automobile company. A natural comedian, Rutvik likes telling jokes and making people laugh.

Speller No. 29, Cameron Keith
Barnes & Noble, Boulder, Colorado
Age 10, 4th grade
School: Friends' School Boulder
Hometown: Longmont, Colorado
Cameron entered his first spelling bee in 2nd grade. When he spelled out on a word he hadn't studied, he vowed he would study harder the next year. He was the youngest speller in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and he is thrilled to be going back in 2016. When he is not spelling he likes to spend hours on the trampoline with his sister, climb trees, hike in the mountains and play with his two crazy dogs. Cameron also reads books like some kids eat Cheetos, devouring them at breakneck pace. His perennial favorite series — The Inheritance Cycle, The Merlin Saga and The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel — have a special place on his (very overcrowded) bookshelves. He loves traveling, and the three places he would most like to visit are Costa Rica, Greece and the Galapagos Islands. He dreams of studying neuroscience at Harvard University, while also writing children's fantasy books.
Speller No. 30, Sylvie Lamontagne
The Denver Post, Denver, Colorado
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Creighton Middle School
Hometown: Lakewood, Colorado

If Sylvie isn't busy spelling, you can find her reading Harry Potter books. Her favorite Harry Potter book is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and her favorite movie is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Her other hobbies include dance and listening to Twenty One Pilots, her favorite band, to which she has trouble assigning a genre. Once she is done with spelling, she wants to try coaching other spellers or learning to play the ukulele. Sylvie tied for ninth place in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 32, Raphael Kim
Delaware Spelling Bee Collaborative, Wilmington, Delaware
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Newark Charter School
Hometown: Newark, Delaware

Raphael was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended West Park Place School until 3rd grade and moved to Newark Charter School in 4th grade. A violinist and pianist, Raphael is currently in her school's orchestra, and she would like to try out for the Delaware Youth Symphony Orchestra next year. While she loves playing violin and piano, her favorite hobby is reading. Her favorite book series is Harry Potter, which — along with Star Wars — is also her favorite series of films. Raphael has two younger sisters named Therese and Michaela.

Speller No. 38, Sreeniketh Vogoti
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Fruit Cove Middle School
Hometown: Saint Johns, Florida

Sreeniketh discovered his love for spelling when he enrolled in a local spelling bee and won the gold medal with close to zero preparation. However, his interests are eclectic. He found his love for chemistry, his first area of passion, in the 2nd grade, and he can now sing the elements of the periodic table in order! At about the same time, he also realized he loved math. He understands and appreciates fundamental concepts of algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. He ranked 10th in the United States in the International Math Kangaroo competition in 4th grade, and 18th in 6th grade. His latest passion is physics, and he loves reading Richard Feynman's famous lectures. A self-taught and still-learning computer programmer, Sreeniketh is fascinated by JavaScript. He dabbles as a part-time author and has written some prose and short stories, but he dreams of becoming a scientist or researcher in the future. In his spare time, Sreeniketh enjoys playing clarinet and watching television programs that feature humor, banter and lots of puns — his favorite is Phineas and Ferb. He also enjoys tennis, chess, swimming and carom billiards.

Speller No. 39, Vasundara Govindarajan
The Miami Herald, Miami, Florida
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Archimedean Middle Conservatory
Hometown: Miami, Florida

Vasundara loves playing piano. She goes crazy for Rainbow Loom and has made dozens of bracelets for her friends. If you want to talk about Pokémon, you will have an enchanting discussion with Vasundara. She is currently reading The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. During her free time, she likes to bother her brother by messing up his room. Her favorite animal is the panda and her favorite television show is We Bare Bears. She would like to have a puppy, but she would appreciate it if someone else would walk and wash the dog. Vasundara likes research and won a gold medal in the Miami-Dade Science Fair. Her avid interest in research has inspired her to become a neuroscientist. Her brother Vaidya competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2010 (tying for 9th place) and 2012 (tying for 10th place).

Speller No. 49, Afua Ansah
Young Educators Foundation, Accra, Ghana
Age 14, 7th grade
School: Ridge Church School
Hometown: La, Accra

Afua loves public speaking and was recently the flag bearer for her political party in her school's mock election. Her favorite book, We Should All Be Feminists, is by the person she would most like to meet: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Afua loves the Harry Potter movies, so it's no surprise that Emma Watson is her favorite actress. Afua says she considers Albert Einstein to be her role model because of his ingenuity and brilliance in establishing the theory of relativity. Afua wants to attend Harvard University one day so she can study medicine and become a neurosurgeon, but she also wants to be a globe-trotter.

Speller No. 51, Ameera Waterford
Kama'aina Kids, Kailua, Hawaii
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Emmanuel Lutheran School
Hometown: Makawao, Hawaii

It only took Ameera five county bees and three state bees to finally achieve her goal of attending the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Ameera's competitive spirit shines in everything she does, especially spelling bees and basketball. She plays her favorite sport year-round with Sparks Basketball Maui. In fact, she is flying straight from Bee Week to a tournament in Honolulu! In April 2016, Ameera was invited to New York City by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for her research essay entitled, "How Death Saved Lives: The Evolution of Medicine in the Civil War," which placed second in the nation this year. She also enjoys school musicals, playing her trumpet and dragging her family along with her to go shopping. Just because she lives in Hawaii does not mean Ameera goes to the beach every day instead of school, contrary to what she believed life in Hawaii would be like when she moved there in 2009.

Speller No. 55, Alette Eide
Commonwealth Edison, Chicago, Illinois
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Homer Junior High School
Hometown: Homer Glen, Illinois

Alette doesn't credit her spelling abilities to rote memorization, but rather to finding connections between other languages. A language fanatic, she has studied Japanese, Spanish, German and Latin, just to name a few. She also plays clarinet and piano, and participates in jazz band, symphonic band and orchestra. Alette is an avid fan of winter sports, and when she's not studying you can find her on the slopes or at the ice rink. In her free time, she also loves to shoot and edit videos, create photo edits, and compose electronic music.

Speller No. 74, Jashun Paluru
Administrator Assistance, Brookston, Indiana
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Battle Ground Middle School
Hometown: West Lafayette, Indiana

Jashun plays French horn in his school's band, which he thinks helps him stay focused. Because his goal is to be a neurosurgeon, Jashun names Dr. Ben Carson as his role model. He spends much of his free time listening to music and reading, and his favorite books are probably those in The Enemy series by Charlie Higson. Jashun is on his school's Mathcounts team, and he recently qualified for the state competition.

Speller No. 78, Larisa Tuttle
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis , Indianapolis, Indiana
Age 14, 8th grade
School: ARCHES
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Larisa is a serious ballet student who dances 20 hours a week in a pre-professional ballet day program at Ballet Theatre of Carmel at Performer's Edge. This summer she will be attending the prestigious Houston Ballet Academy Summer Intensive, which is one of her proudest accomplishments. Her favorite school subjects are biology and literature. When Larisa is not dancing or studying, she loves to pursue her obsessions with Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and the BBC series Sherlock. She enjoys spending time with her four younger sisters and her border collie, Riley, and she helps in her church's preschool Sunday school class. When she grows up, Larisa aspires to be a professional ballet dancer, medical researcher or NASA scientist. She gives glory to God for her blessings and accomplishments, especially for the opportunity to participate in this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 88, Chaunté Blackwood
Jamaica Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Ardenne High School
Hometown: Kingston 5, St. Andrew

Chaunté loves learning about the world and how humans and animals affect the environment, as well as how flora and fauna interact with each other. She also likes learning about how different people live in different environments all around the world. But more than anything, she likes to spell: In fact, she says she wouldn't be herself if she didn't do spelling bees. In addition to spelling, she is an avid reader — her current favorite book is Ben Carson's Gifted Hands — and a budding writer of fiction. Chaunté proudly served as captain of her school's team for Schools' Challenge Quiz, a national academic competition.

Speller No. 94, Tara Singh
WHAS-TV, Louisville, Kentucky
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Louisville Classical Academy
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Tara loves singing, and her favorite time of the week is when she gets to participate in her school's choir. She has been playing violin since she was five years old, and it is something she enjoys very much. Tara is a member of the National Junior Classical League. She especially enjoys playing Certamen, which involves answering questions in Latin regarding classical civilizations and its peoples, languages and cultures, and she was recently voted MVP of her team. Tara is also an avid reader and writer. She enjoys reading stories not only in English but also in other languages such as Latin and German. Tara previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013 and 2015.

Speller No. 104, Jiming Chen, Jr.
The Meakem Group, Bethesda, Maryland
Age 10, 5th grade
School: Bradley Hills Elementary School
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Jiming has always been curious about how things work and passionate about deeply exploring the world of science. He loves to travel, and Lowell Observatory and the Kennedy Space Center are among his favorite spots he has visited. Last summer Jiming started to play with Rubik's Cubes. He uses algorithms to solve them, and his record is 31 seconds. Jiming likes the adage, "reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." Some of his favorite books are How We Got to Now and What If? Jiming is also a musician. He started playing piano when he was three, and he plays the violin in his school's musical ensemble. He is a member of the Boy Scouts, where he gets to learn a lot of cool things he can't learn in school, and he regularly participates in community activities that help underprivileged families. Jiming's dream is to be an inventor and scientist. He hopes to tackle incurable diseases and help make human lives longer and healthier.

Speller No. 114, Mitchell Robson
The Daily Item, Lynn, Massachusetts
Age 14, 8th grade
School: St. John's Preparatory School
Hometown: Marblehead, Massachusetts

Mitchell loves to play basketball and flag football, and plays in leagues for both sports. He is very interested in many fields of science, such as quantum mechanics, molecular biology and electrical engineering, and he also has experience in seven programming languages. An avid mathlete, he won his school-wide AMC 8 and Mathcounts competitions. Mitchell is proud to have been recognized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth several times. A big fan of rap and hip-hop, he frequently listens to artists like Eminem, Lil Wayne and Drake while he studies. He is an active member of his Boy Scouts of America troop, and he currently holds the rank of Second Class. Mitchell previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014 and 2015.

Speller No. 122, Divya Aggarwal
The Oakland Press, Pontiac, Michigan
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Smith Middle School
Hometown: Troy, Michigan

Divya loves reading. Mysteries and mythology are her favorite genres, and she is a big fan of the Star Wars, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series. She also plays piano and violin. She is a member of her school's Science Olympiad team, and she likes to debate. In her free time, Divya loves watching cooking shows such as MasterChef, Cupcake Wars and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Speller No. 129, Maxwell Meyer
Minnesota Public Radio, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Minnetonka Middle School East
Hometown: Shorewood, Minnesota

Max enjoys traveling wherever he can, whether it's around the United States or all around the world. He is excited to see the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland this summer, which combines his love of physics and his love for travel. When not traveling or spelling, Max enjoys playing basketball, golfing, playing piano and reading. In addition, Max is testing to receive his black belt in karate next month. Max's favorite book is the science fiction novel The Martian by Andy Weir, which furthered his love of space and space travel. Max tied for 11th in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 140, Tharein Potuhera
Omaha World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska
Age 14, 8th grade
School: St. Wenceslaus Catholic School
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

Tharein loves to write almost as much as he loves to read. His favorite novel is Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. Tharein plays piano and violin, and he enjoys riding his bike, swimming, baseball and basketball. His favorite singers are Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, and his favorite boy bands are One Direction and Big Time Rush. Tharein's favorite composer is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and his favorite foods are sausages and chocolate. Tharein has written and published one book, and he is currently writing his second book, which will be the second in his Tome Riders series. He also keeps busy by participating in Boy Scouts, where he is Assistant Senior Patrol Leader in his troop. He will begin working toward his Eagle Scout rank within the next several months. 

Speller No. 142, Arushi Kalpande
New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester, New Hampshire
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School
Hometown: Billerica, Massachusetts

In her free time, Arushi likes many things, including reading. Her favorite book is Lois Lowry's The Giver, but she also enjoys books by Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling. Arushi likes writing as well and has had one of her poems published in a poetry book. She loves to relax by drawing pictures, especially pictures of people. When she isn’t practicing Indian classical dance or swimming laps, Arushi can be found practicing violin, which she plays in the Indian Hill Music Youth Orchestra. At school, Arushi enjoys studying math and science. She competed on her school’s Mathcounts team in 7th and 8th grade, and was also the national champion of the Catholic Math League pre-algebra level in the 2014-2015 school year. She also competed in the You Be the Chemist Challenge for New Hampshire and the Young Inventors' Program Rube Goldberg division in 2015 and 2016 respectively. An active member of her school’s National Junior Honor Society, Arushi also serves as its vice president. She previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014 and 2015 (tied for 22nd place).

Speller No. 145, Rimas Chacar-Palubinskas
Bergen County Division of Cultural & Historic Affairs, Hackensack, New Jersey
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Ho-Ho-Kus Public School
Hometown: Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey

Rimas enjoys learning beyond the school curriculum. Since kindergarten, he has attended Lithuanian heritage school on Saturdays, religious education and Arabic school on Sundays, and piano lessons weekly. Last year, Rimas joined the Bergen County Academy Sunday Math Team. In school, he is a member of chorus, mock trial and the Bergen Brain Busters. Rimas loves solving problems, especially in math and science. He enjoyed the Bergen Science Challenge last year, where he placed third in biotechnology, medical science and engineering. Rimas hopes that his future studies in math and science will put him on the path to solving interesting problems, no matter what field he ends up in. 

Speller No. 152, Jairam Hathwar
Corning Rotary Club, Corning, New York
Age 13, 7th grade
School: The Alternative School for Math and Science
Hometown: Painted Post, New York

Jairam is fan of American professional golfer Jordan Spieth. In addition to golf, Jairam follows politics and elections devoutly. He also travels to India annually during the summer, and this year he is looking forward to seeing Mount Everest. At school, Jairam is especially interested in math and social studies. He hopes to attend Harvard University to study medicine someday so that he can become a physician. Jairam's brother Sriram competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2008, 2009, 2011 (tied for 6th place), 2013 (tied for 3rd place) and 2014 (co-champion). Jairam tied for 22nd place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2015, and this year he hopes to improve his final standing. 

Speller No. 156, Shashwat Patel
Times Herald-Record, Middletown, New York
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Monroe-Woodbury Middle School
Hometown: Harriman, New York

Shashwat always aims to do well in whatever task is at hand, and strives to improve with time. This applies to his schooling as well as his spare time, when he likes to build his skills by checking out brainteasers on the Internet. Shashwat is keenly interested is science, especially in the evolutionary history of life on earth. Although he is unsure what career path he'll choose in life, he is willing to work hard to do his best until he figures that out. When he has time to relax, he likes to watch movies like his favorite, Jurassic World. He also likes to spend time with his brother Abhilash, usually building with Lego bricks. Shashwat competed in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 165, Eva Vega
The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Carmel Christian School
Hometown: Waxhaw, North Carolina

Eva is an avid reader who also enjoys writing, drawing, and arts and crafts. In her free time, she likes to play video games with her little sister, play flute and guitar, and work toward learning Spanish and French. Two of her dreams are to be a writer and to see the Eiffel Tower, and she likes to travel and learn about the places she visits. She claims she could live on cheese and chocolate her entire life, so it sounds like a trip to France is certainly in order! Her favorite movie is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Besides competing in spelling bees, Eva has participated in math and creative writing competitions, and she was recently admitted to the Davidson Young Scholars program.

Speller No. 167, Bettie Closs
Duke University's Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, Durham, North Carolina
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Lucas Middle School
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Bettie enjoys doing lots of fun things such as dancing, zip-lining, bicycling, skating, hiking in the woods, sledding, deep sea fishing, participating in academic competitions, playing the bass clarinet and the clarinet, and reading. She also likes taking trips to places such as Africa and the Outer Banks, North Carolina. She recently took first place in a regional Science Olympiad competition. Bettie also loves the movie Zootopia, drawing, hot wings, the video game Five Nights at Freddy's and playing home design games. She plans to attend Duke University so that she can get a degree in engineering and pursue a career as an architect and designer of homes. Bettie competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014 and 2015.

Speller No. 178, Owen Kovalik
Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Medina Christian Academy
Hometown: Medina, Ohio

At school, Owen participates in the robotics club and choir. He plays clarinet in the school band, and has had the lead role in his school's Christmas musical for the past two years. Owen recently played two pieces during Kent State University's Junior Piano Festival. He has also competed in the Association of Christian Schools International district speech meet, math Olympics, and creative writing competition, and has won many awards. During his free time, Owen enjoys playing badminton, riding his scooter, playing Super Mario games on the Wii U and taking long walks with his dad in the evenings. Owen also loves to ride the roller coasters at Cedar Point every summer. Owen is a foodie; he loves to try new restaurants. His current favorites are steak, ribs and Japanese hibachi. Owen competed in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, tying for 22nd place.

Speller No. 179, Lipika Narisetti
Ohio University's Scripps College of Communication, Athens, Ohio
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Hilliard Heritage Middle School
Hometown: Hilliard, Ohio

In addition to competing in spelling bees, Lipika competes in essay writing and vocabulary competitions, as well as science fairs. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing violin and going on walks. At school, she is currently on the track team, and she recently participated in the Mathcounts competition with other members of her school team. Lipika's favorite subjects are math and science, and her dream job is a neurosurgeon. She previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2015, tying for 22nd place. 

Speller No. 181, Shiv Dewan
The Repository, Canton, Ohio
Age 13, 8th grade
School: St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School
Hometown: North Canton, Ohio

Shiv has recently been involved in medical research that investigates how natural compounds can treat drug-induced vascular diseases. He participated in the South Asian Spelling Bee last summer and tied for fifth place at the national finals in New Jersey. He also took an amazing medical mission trip to India this past December and was able to volunteer to serve food to the needy at a canteen in a world-class hospital that offers care free of charge. Since he would like to be a physician one day, this experience was helpful to Shiv, as he was able to see the different facets of human suffering, including the dire effects of malnutrition. Shiv loves playing tennis and watching tennis tournaments. He especially enjoys watching the four Grand Slam tournaments, and he admires Roger Federer as a player. He likes watching cooking shows such as Chopped and science shows such as Outrageous Acts of Science. He also loves watching Disney and Pixar movies such as Up, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. Shiv's parents encourage him to always do his best, and they have taught him that having a good character, being humble and kind, and serving others give the greatest joy in life. Shiv competed in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 184, Andrew France
Advance Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Ohio Virtual Academy
Hometown: Chagrin Falls, Ohio

In addition to enjoying the English language, Andrew is an avid reader and naturalist. His favorite book is The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson. He would like to visit the Galapagos Islands "because of the remarkable biodiversity of animal life." He hopes to someday attend the University of California, Berkeley to study biology. Andrew enjoys volunteering at his local library and tutoring younger children in reading. His favorite school subject is math, but he also enjoys writing. Andrew competed in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 201, Aditi Sridhar
The Chester Spirit, Chester, Pennsylvania
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Garnet Valley Middle School
Hometown: Aston, Pennsylvania

Aditi loves to talk and perform in front of people, whether she's at a spelling bee, a concert, or just at school. She has played the piano for nine years and the clarinet for five years. Aditi's favorite subjects are social studies and foreign language. One of Aditi's life goals is to learn five to eight languages; she already knows English and Tamil, and she’s learning French and Hindi. When she's not doing anything academic, you can find Aditi reading paperbacks or fan fiction, hanging out with her family or friends, or doing something musical like singing or playing an instrument. Her dream is to someday be a lawyer, and then perhaps a Supreme Court justice.

Speller No. 219, Heehyun "Catherine" Chung
Yoon's English School, Seoul, South Korea
Age 13, 6th grade
School: Dodam Elementary School
Hometown: Sejong-si, Sejong-si

Words are a big part of Heehyun's life. When she's not studying for the spelling bee, Heehyun tries to improve her writing skills by typing out stories for fun. She has been a voracious reader from the very beginning, reading every book, e-book and article she could get her hands on. At school, Heehyun studies hard in the hopes that she can become a physicist, and she unwinds after a particularly hard day by listening to music, watching her favorite movies and chatting with friends. Also an art lover, Heehyun sketches and plays piano during downtime. While in Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Heehyun plans to see and take photos of as much of the city as possible.

Speller No. 229, Smrithi Upadhyayula
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Coppell Middle School West
Hometown: Coppell, Texas

In addition to spelling, Smrithi is interested in writing. She has written a book and is currently working on the sequel. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese, and she likes it best with scrambled eggs. She's learning Indian classical music, and really likes to swim, play piano, roller-skate and ice-skate. Her favorite book is The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, and her favorite movie is Interstellar. Playing flute is her first passion, but when she's not doing something musical, she loves learning to do intricate hairstyles and writing short stories. Smrithi previously competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2015, tying for 22nd place.

Speller No. 232, Nihar Janga
Houston Public Media, Houston, Texas
Age 11, 5th grade
School: River Ridge Elementary School
Hometown: Austin, Texas

Nihar loves spelling, and he puts a lot of determination and dedication into learning new words. He also enjoys playing football with his best friends and playing video games — especially his favorite, Batman: Arkham City. Nihar likes movies that motivate him to become "a beneficially influential citizen." His favorite movies are Akeelah and the Bee and the Star Wars and Mission Impossible films. In the future, Nihar aspires to be a neurosurgeon who can develop many cures for serious brain disorders.

Speller No. 233, Shourav Dasari
Houston Public Media, Houston, Texas
Age 13, 7th grade
School: McCullough Junior High School
Hometown: Spring, Texas

Shourav has participated in spelling bees since he was in 2nd grade, and has won the North South Foundation Spelling Bee at both the Junior (in 3rd grade) and Senior (in 6th grade) level. Shourav also won the 2015 MetLife South Asian Spelling Bee and won $10,000. At school, his favorite subject is math, and he took first place in the 2016 CB&I Junior High Science Fair in the math category for predicting stock prices. Shourav’s favorite sport is tennis, and he plays violin in his school’s orchestra. At home, he likes to read the Percy Jackson novel series and play FIFA 16. Shourav's sister, Shobha, competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013 (tied for 19th place), 2014 (tied for 32nd place) and 2015 (tied for 22nd place).

Speller No. 239, Alex Iyer
San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio, Texas
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Geneva School of Boerne
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Alex loves all types of music, from classical to rap. A talented cellist, Alex was selected for a regional orchestra. He is also an avid cinephile and especially loves dramatic films. In school, Alex serves as a member of the National Junior Honor Society, and he has served on Student Council three years in a row. In his spare time, Alex can be found playing chess — he's been honing his strategies since the age of seven.

Speller No. 252, Kyra Holland
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Marshall Middle School
Hometown: Warrenton, Virginia

Kyra is interested in wildlife conservation and loves to go on hikes and camping trips. She has hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and in Isle Royale and Algonquin parks. She enjoys a wide variety of music including rock and classical. She lists Sharon Van Etten, PJ Harvey, David Bowie, the Kronos Quartet, Sam Smith and The Clash as some of her favorite artists. She also loves to read and watch movies with her friends. She recommends Me and Earl and the Dying Girl; Pitch Perfect; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Zoolander and Mortdecai as the best movies to watch with friends. She also has a fraternal twin sister, Hannah, who does not participate in spelling bees. Her favorite classes in school are orchestra and geometry. When Kyra grows up she wants to be a foreign correspondent, a public defender or an urban artist.

Speller No. 259, Tejas Muthusamy
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia
Age 13, 7th grade
School: George H. Moody Middle School
Hometown: Glen Allen, Virginia

Tejas is a fan of the band Twenty One Pilots, but he's equally likely to rock out to songs like "Uma Thurman" by Fall Out Boy. Another hobby of his is reading, and his book of choice is Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Tejas enjoys both journalism and politics, and he is happiest when at the juncture of the two. He counts brilliant legal and political minds among his idols, including Antonin Scalia and Hillary Clinton. At school, he enjoys learning French in preparation to one day visit his favorite place, Paris. Tejas likes staying active and says that every aspect of both swimming and golf excite him and provide him with an opportunity to get blood flowing to his brain. Mystery intrigues Tejas, so it makes sense that he is a big fan of the BBC's Sherlock. Tejas previously participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2014 (tying for 8th place) and 2015 (tying for 7th place).

Speller No. 262, Edwin Estep
Boys & Girls Club of Northern Shenandoah Valley, Winchester, Virginia
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Northern Shenandoah Valley Homeschool Association
Hometown: Berryville, Virginia

Some of Edwin's favorite things to do include riding his bike, walking, building and tinkering with Fischertechnik products, thinking about philosophy and religion, and playing Minecraft. Edwin competed in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee and his goal has always been to perform well and have a good time, regardless of the outcome. Edwin and his family are very environmentally inclined: They use solar power as their primary energy source; grow dozens of types of fruits and vegetables every year in their garden; pick up trash from their road; compost and recycle everything they can; and use an electric car. Edwin has always been fascinated by European culture, and he is currently learning Italian and Polish. He also enjoys brewing kombucha (a fizzy, sweetened black or green tea drink) with his mom, and together they make many flavors including blueberry, honeyberry, ginger-lemon, rhubarb and strawberry, which is Edwin's favorite. Edwin's brother George competed in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee; his brother Samuel competed in 2010, 2011 (tied for 13th place) and 2012; and his sister Marissa competed in 2004 and 2006.

Speller No. 264, Ayush Noori
Town Hall Seattle, Seattle, Washington
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Open Window School
Hometown: Issaquah, Washington

Ayush views life as a series of opportunities to be of service to humanity, and giving back to his community is an integral part of who he is. He has used his success in spelling to create a greater awareness of the importance and benefits of literacy through spelling-related fundraisers, assemblies, mentoring and tutoring. He enjoys serving on his local YMCA board as a youth representative, and on the Teen Advocacy Committee as an elected member. Reaching beyond his immediate community, Ayush volunteers with the House of Hope Uganda, an organization that serves to better the lives of patients diagnosed with cancer. Outside the world of philanthropy, Ayush enjoys debating, and he has won the Northwest Debate League best speaker award several times. He also enjoys learning and playing several musical instruments, including piano, viola and tabla. Ayush competed in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 278, Sravanth Malla
Haverstraw Elementary School, Haverstraw, New York
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Haverstraw Elementary School
Hometown: Haverstraw, New York

Sravanth has a variety of interests: He loves outdoor activities such as skiing and basketball, and enjoys playing video games, drawing and doing tricks with his yo-yo. He also takes joy in playing tenor saxophone and reading in his free time. Sravanth participated in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and his sister Sanjana competed in 2012 (tying for 22nd place) and 2014 (tying for 13th place). He would most like to meet LeBron James because of his determination to succeed, but Sravanth's sister is his role model because of her work ethic and patience. 

Speller No. 280, Shruthika Padhy
Bret Harte Elementary School , Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Age 10, 5th grade
School: Bret Harte Elementary School
Hometown: Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Shruthika is an avid reader who completed the Kumon Reading Program while in 3rd grade. She plays flute in her school band and has been selected to perform in the All South Jersey Honors Band. She also performs in chorus groups and plays piano, and she's learning Indian classical music. She loves swimming and is a member of the Jersey Wahoos Swim Club. She plays soccer and enjoys watching NFL and NBA games. Shruthika likes to explore new places, and would love to visit Greece someday because she admires Greek culture and mythology. She would also like to visit ancient sites like Easter Island and Knossos.