Following his win at Norfolk Academy’s spelling bee two months ago, Srivi Hathwar '24 was ready to take on over 50 middle school students from the region in the 11th annual WHRO and Virginian-Pilot Spelling Bee this past weekend. After all, he has spent countless hours preparing for this event, from attending Spelling Bee Club once a week this past fall, to studying with the Consolidated Word List (CWL) and Spell It!, a website built by Merriam-Webster with assistance from Scripps National Spelling Bee.
His hard work paid off. Srivi made it to the final round and, in doing so, made school history; no Norfolk Academy student has made it as far in the regional spelling bee competition.
The competition, open to spellers in grades 6-8, was live-streamed on WHRO’s website to give supporters in Hampton Roads the opportunity to watch. One such viewer was Mrs. Sarah Smythe, associate director of admissions and, along with sixth grade reading teacher Gillian Arnold, co-chair of NA’s Spelling Bee Club for sixth graders.
“I couldn’t look when the words appeared on the screen, I was so nervous,” said Mrs. Smythe. “I thought Srivi was fantastic…I was really proud of him.”
Coming in second place at the regional spelling bee is no easy feat. The championship word “xiphophyllous” was daunting unless you are an expert in Ancient Greek etymology or botany.
“I think we were all humbled by the last word,” said Mrs. Patty McLaughlin, director of the Lower School. “It’s a great initiative and we were thrilled NA was represented. He deserved to get far, and we all wish him the best.”
Stories of athletes currently competing in the winter Olympics are sometimes accompanied by tales of pressure. On a smaller scale, the students competing in the regional spelling bee felt a similar sense of stress to perform at their best. To alleviate some of that anxiety and enjoy his experience, Srivi employed a fun tactic. “I tried to dance and be happy during the commercial breaks,” he said.
Although he was “a little sad” with the outcome, he was happy with the opportunity to compete and to take home the title of runner-up. Srivi still hopes to one day compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but in the meantime he will enjoy his achievement of making NA history.