Education News

Houston’s Top Spellers Head to National Bee for Second Year

Shobha Dasari and Syamantak Payra will represent Houston in this year’s bee.


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There’s a lot of pressure at the National Spelling Bee.

Imagine being on stage with other spellers, in front of lots of parents, under bright lights—and everything’s broadcast on TV.

But Houston’s top two spellers Shobha Dasari and Syamantak Payra aren’t nervous.

Here’s how they’re feeling:



(That’s excited and enthusiastic for all the non-spellers.)

Both Shobha and Syamantak are heading to the National Spelling Bee for the second time. They were repeat co-champions at the Houston bee earlier this year.

Houston’s repeat co-champions Shobha Dasari, 13, and Syamantak Payra, 13, will compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. this week.

Shobha – a seventh grader from Pearland – hopes to make it to the final round. Last year she missed it by one letter.

“Once you’re actually at the spelling bee, you start realizing that you’re not competing against all these spellers that are there. You’re competing against the dictionary.”

To get ready, Shobha says she’s been studying words from different languages like Portuguese and Sanskrit. She’s also been focusing on the roots of different words.

“For example, submarine is a word that’s made completely out of roots. It’s from the Latin root ‘sub’ which means under and the Latin root ‘mare’ which means ocean, so submarines are, like, under the ocean. So they can help you piece together a word really well.”

Studying all those words adds up.

Houston’s other top speller Syamantak is counting on that. He’s been spelling since he was in the third grade. Now he’s thirteen years old and in the eighth grade in Friendswood.

“This year is sort of like a culmination of all the years I’ve been doing spelling. So all this knowledge really adds up and there’s not really a point where you can stop studying and wait for the next year. But it’s all about just learning more words and understanding the language better.

Besides the actual competition, Syamantak says there’s another part of the bee he really enjoys – all the camaraderie.

“It’s just great to be around other like-minded people that have studied so many words and it’s a lot of fun.”

Syamantak and Shobha will be among 281 spellers from around the country.

The National Spelling Bee will be broadcast live this week on ESPN.

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