In a crowded ballroom, Kavya Shivashankar beat out 10 other finalists to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee on national television. Kavya correctly spelled the word "laodicean," meaning lukewarm or indifferent in politics or religion. Kavya, who had previously competed the past three years and has been studying for six, says it was a long journey.
"Right now I'm feeling really excited, ectstatic, and it's hard to describe. This will probably help me in the future, because I've learned so many things, so many roots, and not only that, I've learned discipline, focus and I've learned a lot of things that I could carry on in life," she said.
The eighth grader from the state of Kansas won more than $40,000 in cash and prizes and a dazzling gold trophy.
Like several other contestants, Kavya's parents emigrated to the United States from another country and is the seventh Indian-American to win the trophy in the last 10 years. Her father, Mirle Shivashankar, says for children of immigrants, education is key. "Education is what we primarily focus on -- working hard and continuing to work hard yields results," he said.
Contestant Neetu Chandak, whose parents are from Mumbai, India, is competing for the third time and was pleased she made it to the finals. "My goal each time is to try to beat myself. Like I'm always competing with myself, so that's how I keep doing better," she said.
Neetu is coached by her mom, who helps her train rigorously for the lengthy words of Latin, Greek and many other origins. "When I do words my mom first asks me the words, and whatever words I keep going wrong, again and again, we do those words until I smack them down. Because those words usually get asked to me!" she said.
Neetu, with a bright smile and cheerful attitude, says she is eager to return next year.
As for Kevya Shivashankar's future career plans: "I want to get into some science program in high school because I want to be a neurosurgeon. But I'm really going to miss spelling because it was such a big part of my life. I don't know if anything can replace spelling," she said.
The spelling champion says for right now she is going to go home and relax, but not for too long, because she says she will probably get bored.