Eleven-year-old Srivatsav Vuppala is headed to the nation’s capital after rattling off the correct spellings of 16 words to be named champion of the 2017 Blade Northwest Ohio Championship Spelling Bee.
The sixth grader at Perrysburg Junior High School bested 53 of the region’s top spellers in 15 rounds Saturday at the Owens Community College Center for Fine and Performing Arts in Perrysburg Township.
It was his second appearance in the annual bee.
The young Vuppala has always enjoyed spelling and language. He said his championship words — “essential” and “urbane” — were surprisingly simple.
“It seemed to be easier than it was supposed to be,” he said.
In earlier rounds, he spelled words like “nachtmusik,” “diphthong,” and “Panglossian.”
Srivatsav Vuppala, 11, of Perrysburg Junior High, waves to his family after winning the Northwest Ohio Championship Spelling Bee at Owens Community College in Perrysburg Township. To his right is Jimmy Kleshinski, who took second.
He earned a trip to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington and other prizes, courtesy of The Blade.
Srivatsav’s self-described natural aptitude for spelling will hopefully come in handy when competing at the national level, where the words “Feldenkrais” and “gesellschaft” earned the title for 2016’s two first-place winners.
“I’m very nervous,” the young Vuppala said. “I need to study a lot.”
The first and second runners-up at The Blade bee this year also happen to be family. Second cousins Jimmy Kleshinski and Brendan Moloney, both 12, took home second and third place, respectively.
The young Kleshinski, a seventh grader at Springfield Middle School, bested his own third-place performance at last year’s Blade bee. He correctly spelled “congregation,” but missed “plantar” in the final rounds.
He said he relies on memorization, but also familiarizes himself with common word structures based on languages of origin to help spell more difficult terms.
“I’m just glad I did better than last year, and hopefully next year I’ll come back and get first,” Jimmy said.
He and his cousin encouraged each other throughout the competition, sharing smiles and thumbs-up gestures on stage. A tearful young Moloney had reached the top four when he missed a single letter in “cordovan,” but collected himself and returned to take third with “sauciness” in a spell-off with fourth-place finisher Emily Sohn of Fallen Timbers Middle School.
The home-schooled sixth grader is an avid reader, and finds phonetics to be a helpful study tactic.
He was unable to attend last year’s Blade bee despite qualifying, and is eager to return in 2018.
“I definitely will,” Brendan said.
Paula Emery, payroll manager at The Blade and bee coordinator for 13 years, said the competition has become noticeably more difficult over time. “The kids are getting smarter,” she said. “They are more prepared, and I’m noticing a lot of repeat customers coming through. It’s very exciting to watch such bright kids go at it.”
The national Scripps bee begins May 28, where Srivatsav will compete for the $40,000 grand prize, a $2,500 savings bond, and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster along with $400 in reference works and a complete encyclopedia set. He would also travel to New York to appear on Live with Kelly.
Other contestants can win prizes ranging from $500 if ousted in rounds four through six to $30,000 awarded for second place.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.