SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Surya Kapu, 14, an eighth-grader at American Preperatory Academy in Draper, placed third in the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee, which concluded in Oxon Hill, Md., this evening.
Kapu, also known as No. 213, misspelled the word “kelep,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “a Central American stinging ant (Ectatomma tuberculatum) that lives in small colonies in the ground, especially near clearings.” He misspelled the word as Q-U-E-L-E-P.
This was Kapu’s final year of eligibility for the spelling bee. Last year, he placed fifth in the nation.
Taking home the crown this year was Florida’s Dev Shah, 14, who correctly nailed “psammophile” to take home the title.
“Psammo meaning sand, Greek?” he asked. “Phile, meaning love, Greek?”
He soaked up the moment by asking for the word to be used in a sentence, something he described a day earlier as a stalling tactic. Then he put his hands over his face as he was declared the winner.
Charlotte Walsh, a 14-year-old from Arlington, Va., was the runner-up, and she gave Dev a congratulatory hug. Dev, who previously appeared in the bee in 2019 and 2021, was close with many of his fellow finalists.
“They’ve all been in many online bees and many Scripps National Spelling Bees, and I felt like a spark and a camaraderie between all of us,” he said. “I’m very grateful and I’m privileged that I could be in a spelling bee with them one final time.”
When the field had been narrowed to just Dev and Charlotte, Scripps brought out the buzzer used for its “spell-off” tiebreaker, and Dev was momentarily confused when he stepped to the microphone.
“This is not the spell-off, right?” Dev asked. Told it was not, he spelled “bathypitotmeter” so quickly that it might as well have been the latest example of his unassuming onstage swagger.
Dev wins more than $50,000 in cash and prizes and is the 22nd champion in the past 24 years with South Asian heritage.
While sometimes Scripps’ use of trademarks and geographical names can anger spelling traditionalists who want to see kids demonstrate their mastery of roots and language patterns — and even the exceptions to those patterns — Scripps has made clear that with the exception of words designated as archaic or obsolete, any entry in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged dictionary is fair game.
The bee began in 1925 and is open to students through the eighth grade. Spellers qualify by winning regional competitions around the country. There were 229 kids onstage at the beginning of this year’s national bee — and each was a champion many times over, considering that 11 million participated at the school level.