Carmel’s top speller: ‘We all felt like champions’

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Carmel Middle School eighth-grader Alekhya Ankaraju, center, advanced to the semifinal round of the National Spelling Bee. (Submitted photo)

Carmel Middle School eighth-grader Alekhya Ankaraju, center, advanced to the semifinal round of the National Spelling Bee. (Submitted photo)

By Amanda Foust

Carmel Middle School eighth-grader Alekhya Ankaraju recently earned the right to represent Carmel schools at the National Spelling Bee during the final week of May.

Her spelling skills brought her all the way to the fifth round of the spelling bee’s semifinals before being knocked out trying to spell the word “miniaceous.”

But she’s not bitter and said it was simply a great experience.

“Going to (Washington) D.C. for the first time was a really neat experience. The moment we made it to the airport and hotel we thought it was so nice, organized and ran smoothly,” Alekhya said. “We all felt like champions.”

Growing up, her love for reading and writing soon revealed the talent she had for spelling.

“I realized (spelling) actually sticks in my head and maybe I can further expand this little skill,” Alekhya said.

Her journey started out with participating in the local spelling bee, progressed to regionals, and then she then received the honor of going to Washington D.C. to compete in the national competition.

But along the way she received lots of help and support in training from her father, Krishna Ankaraju, and Carmel teacher Mary Service, who was instrumental in helping her to prepare.

Written and verbal tests were required for each round at nationals, and those scores were assessed to determine the champion. There were many things a contestant had to do to prepare in advance.

“They gave us this huge 3-4 inch dictionary and told us to study out of that. They gave us word lists, and I mastered those words,” Alekhya said. “I looked at past misspelled words in past spelling bees to try to aid me and also looked at spelling words in the event that I got a word I didn’t know so I would know how to approach it.”

She said one thing she would do differently is to have prepared better for semifinals. She did not expect to make it as far as she did.

“I think I would have widened my range so it could have prepared me better for the words they gave me in semifinals and maybe even finals,” Alekhya said.

Overall, she had a memorable experience. And for anyone interested in pursuing the same goal, she would advise students to spend a lot of time studying, practicing and believing they can excel further than they imagined.

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