Spelling Bee

Houston Spelling Bee Has Two New Co-Champions

After 14 rounds with 53 total spellers, Shourav Dasari, a seventh grader at McCullough Jr. High in Conroe ISD, and Nihar Janga, a fifth grader at River Ridge Elementary in Leander ISD, won as co-champions at the 2016 Houston Public Media Spelling Bee.

Connie Hill, Lisa Shumate, Ernie Manouse and Capella Tucker of Houston Public Media congratulate the 2016 co-champions, Nihar Janga and Shourav Dasari.
Connie Hill, Lisa Shumate, Ernie Manouse and Capella Tucker of Houston Public Media congratulate the 2016 co-champions, Nihar Janga and Shourav Dasari.

The Houston Public Media Spelling Bee started off with 53 spellers. But it came down to two spellers, who faced off in a nine-word championship round.

Those were words like guaguanche.

Co-champion speller Shourav Dasari is a Spring resident and seventh grader at McCullough Jr. High in Conroe ISD.
Co-champion speller Shourav Dasari is a Spring resident and seventh grader at McCullough Jr. High in Conroe ISD.
Co-champion speller Nihar Jangaan is an Austin resident and fifth grader at River Ridge Elementary in Leander ISD.
Co-champion speller Nihar Janga is an Austin resident and fifth grader at River Ridge Elementary in Leander ISD.

Seventh grader Shourav Dasari asked the bee’s pronouncer, Richard Armstrong, for more information.

“Guaguanche, can I have the definition?” he asked.

The answer: “a barracuda of the Caribbean area and adjacent Atlantic coasts, which is typically yellowish to olive above, silvery below and spotted with black or dark brown.”

Shourav tackled it with confidence, and spelled it correctly.

His competitor, Nihar Janga, a fifth grader from the Austin area, had to spell the next word correctly in order to become co-champion. And that word was a doozy.

“The word is snotziekte,” said Armstrong.

“Snotziekte, may I have the origin?” Nihar asked.

“This word came from Africaans from Dutch. Snotziekte.”

It became Nihar’s winning word.

And with that, both Shourav and Nihar won the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee as co-champions.

It was a big win since both of them had ranked third in previous years, Shourav in 2014 and Nihar in 2015.

Afterwards, Nihar said that he had never seen that word before. He explained how he figured it out.

“Well, they said that it was an inflammation of the mucous membrane, so I figured it would be snot, that’s s-n-o-t, and then ziekte is the Africaans ending for disease, so that’s z-i-e-k-t-e,” he said.

 As for that other winning word, guaguanche, co-champion Shourav said that he studied it a couple of weeks ago. And he said that’s where the luck of the spelling bee comes in.

“Because anyone can get a word they don’t know, since you can’t memorize the whole dictionary,” he said. “So, it just kind of depends on if you get a word you know, you could make it far. If you get words you don’t know, you could end up getting out.” 

He added that he’s proud to follow his family’s tradition: His older sister, Shobha, is a previous Houston spelling co-champion.

Both students will head to Washington, D.C. in May to represent Greater Houston in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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