Kavya Shivashankar, Scripps National Spelling Bee 2009 winner quits

May 29th, 2009 - 9:40 pm ICT by John Le Fevre  

Kavya Shivashankar Kavya Shivashankar, the 13-year-old budding neurosurgeon from Kansas who took out last night’s championships in the Scripps National Spelling Bee 2009 finals is hanging up her dictionaries and thesauruses.

Shivashankar, an eighth-grader at Joaquin Miller Middle School in West San Jose, beat a field of 11 other 13-year-olds and one 12-year-old, to walk away with more than $US14,000 in prize money and a huge winners trophy.

The win followed three prior attempts to take out the trophy, with Shivashankar finishing 10th, eighth and fourth over the last three years.

Shivashankar, who turned 13 just last week, wrote each word out on her palm and always ended with a smile.

She won the much sought after prize by successfully spelling “laodicean,” – meaning lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics – beating 12-year-old Tim Ruiter of Centreville, Va., the only non-teenager in the finals, who misspelled “maecenas,” which means a cultural benefactor.

“I had absolutely no clue about that word,” Tim said. “I was just racking my brain for anything possible that could help me. I’ll probably be spelling it in my sleep tonight.”

Shivashankar’s father, Mirle, said now she’s retiring as a speller, she’ll need another outlet for her competitive nature. He said she might enter the “Brain Bee,” a science-oriented contest more inclined with her career goals.

However Shivashankar said, “I don’t think anything can replace spelling. Spelling has been such a big part of my life.”

She enjoys playing the violin, bicycling, swimming and learning Indian classical dance, and her role model is Nupur Lala, the 1999 champion featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”

This years event was the 82nd, making the Scripps National Spelling Bee America’s largest and longest-running educational promotion. The event was broadcast live on the ABC television network with Emmy Award-winner Tom Bergeron hosting the 16-round final.

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