SEMIFINALISTS

Speller No. 5, Christopher O'Connor
Arizona Educational Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona
Age 13, 7th grade
School: St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic School
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Christopher has loved letters for many years; in fact, he could recite the alphabet backwards when he was just two years old! Now, his interests have expanded to reading, geography and spending time with friends and his two sisters. In his free time, he practices martial arts, and he is currently a black-belt candidate, which he considers one of his greatest accomplishments. One of his role models is 1980 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Jacques Bailly, who is now official pronouncer at the Bee. Christopher would love to meet him and, someday, have his job. At home, Christopher owns a Great Dane named Baxter.

Speller No. 18, Isabel Cholbi
San Bernardino Spelling Bee Collaborative, San Bernardino, California
Age 11, 7th grade
School: Cesar E. Chavez Middle School
Hometown: San Bernardino, California

Isabel enjoys building websites and learning computer programming languages like JavaScript, HTML and Ruby. She counts Ada Lovelace, a 19th century mathematician who is often considered the world's first computer programmer, among her role models. A self-described environmentalist, Isabel has competed in her regional science fair every year since 2010 and placed fourth in 2013. Isabel plays chromatic percussion (xylophone, glockenspiel and vibraphone) and participated in district honor band in 2012 and 2013. She loves the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and her favorite players are Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum. Isabel competed in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 24, Audrey Bantug
Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, California
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Iron Horse Middle School
Hometown: San Ramon, California

Audrey enjoys Tae Kwon Do, plays the clarinet and piano, and participates in the writing club and symphonic band at her school. She is also a member of the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church and acts as an altar server there. But it's reading and writing that really ignite her passion. Her favorite book is The Mark of Athena, the third installment of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, and she would love to become a writer herself one day. Fluent in Tagalog, Audrey is making her first trip to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 28, Katharine Wang
Community Center Shanghai, Shanghai, China
Age 11, 6th grade
School: Qooco School
Hometown: Beijing,

Katharine lives in Beijing where she studies not only English, but also German and French. Though she does enjoy a round of tennis, she says that, generally, she fails at sports. She’s much more comfortable playing the piano or otherwise participating in music. At home, she has two hamsters, Stardust and Bubbles. For every spelling bee, Katharine dons the same dark blue shirt for good luck. Katharine competed in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 29, Eva Kitlen
Barnes & Noble, Boulder, Colorado
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Sunset Middle School
Hometown: Niwot, Colorado

Eva is a competitive swimmer and has achieved three state qualifying times in her events. She also enjoys skiing and ballet and has run on her school's cross country team for three years. A talented musician, Eva plays clarinet and piano and was selected for her school district's honor band. Eva is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and has been accepted to the International Baccalaureate Programme at the high school she will attend next fall. She would like to pursue a career in astrophysics or etymology. Eva participated in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 30, Himanvi Kopuri
The Denver Post, Denver, Colorado
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Hamilton Middle School
Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Himanvi has a heart for helping people in need, from community service projects as a member of the National Junior Honor Society to aspirations of a career in cardiovascular surgery. She has been recognized by the Super Citizen program four times, and, in two of those years, was honored directly by the governor of Colorado. Himanvi enjoys playing the flute, likes playing tennis and volleyball, and takes classes for a form of traditional Indian dancing called Kuchipudi. She loves math and science and competes in the Mathletics and Math Kangaroo programs and is also on the Brain Bowl team at her school.

Speller No. 36, Anuk Dayaprema
European PTA, Defense and State Department Schools, Europe
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Vicenza Middle School, Department of Defense School
Hometown: Vincenza,

Anuk was recently selected to attend the Junior Leadership Seminar in Germany and has been accepted into Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth. He enjoys swimming, tennis, running, scouting, anatomy and physiology, and would like to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon. Anuk serves on his school's student council, placed first in the Mediterranean District of  Mathcounts, and is fluent in Sinhalese. His role model is retired U.S. Special Operations Commanding General Bryan "Doug" Brown, who has been a powerful influence in Anuk's life. Anuk is the three-time defending champion of the U.S. Department of Defense Europe Spelling Bee and is making his third trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 39, Grace Remmer
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida

Grace plays violin in the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra and viola in the Calandra Quartet. She also works as a student violin teacher and would like to follow in the career footsteps of her favorite musician Itzhak Perlman. Her favorite book is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and she is crazy about all things Disney, especially the search for "hidden Mickeys" throughout the parks. Grace's diverse interests include everything from knitting and neuroscience to ancient civilizations and singing Broadway tunes. This marks her fourth consecutive appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She has previously tied for 9th place in 2010, 14th place in 2011 and 22nd place in 2012.

Speller No. 41, Christal Schermeister
The Miami Herald, Miami, Florida
Age 13, 8th grade
School: HEARTS Home School Group
Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida

Christal enjoys ballet, bicycling and the creative arts. A fan of contemporary Christian music, she is involved in many activities at her church. Christal excels in science and loves the Star Wars movie series. At home, she has a Bichon Frise named Barney and a spaniel mix named Bonita. Christal participated in her first spelling bee at age six, and this year is making her second appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She tied for 22nd place in last year's competition.

Speller No. 44, Nikitha Chandran
Tampa Bay Spelling Bee Collaborative, St. Petersburg, Florida
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Brandon Academy
Hometown: Valrico, Florida

Nikitha serves as student council treasurer at her school and has been admitted to the International Baccalaureate program for 2013-2014. She enjoys acting, singing, dancing, photography and playing piano. She is also involved in cheerleading and National Junior Honor Society. Nikitha loves The Hunger Games book trilogy and movie, and Taylor Swift tops her list of favorite music artists. Her favorite school subject is science and she hopes to one day pursue a career as a forensic scientist. Nikitha is "almost multilingual" – she can understand Tamil and is learning to speak Spanish. This is her second trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 48, Rachael Cundey
The Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, Georgia
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Lakeside Middle School
Hometown: Evans, Georgia

Rachael plays flute in her school band and district honor band. A member of her school's math and academic bowl teams, Rachael received the Principal's Award in 2011 for achieving the highest average in all academic subjects. She enjoys reading in her spare time and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery is her favorite book. Rachael's favorite school subject is math and she would like to become a cardiologist. Rachael is making her fifth consecutive appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, making it to Washington, D.C., every year since 2009. She tied for tenth place at last year's Bee.

Speller No. 58, Alia Abiad
Commonwealth Edison, Chicago, Illinois
Age 13, 7th grade
School: McClure Junior High School
Hometown: Western Springs, Illinois

Alia plays violin in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and was a member of her school's Math Olympiad team, which took first place in the area Math Olympiad in 2010, 2011 and 2012. She is a member of the school book club and is a three-time winner of the District 101 Award for Exemplary Writing. Alia would like to become a cardiologist, pursuing a career in medicine like both her parents. She has two pet rats named Posy and Peanut, and her role model is her 96-year-old great grandmother Virginia, who inspires Alia with her perpetual optimism and humor. Alia is competing in her first Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 60, Lucas Urbanski
Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, Illinois
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Immanuel Lutheran School
Hometown: Crystal Lake, Illinois

Lucas is a founding member of the Northern Illinois Yo-Yo Club, and can perform a variety of amazing tricks. He likes playing basketball and volleyball and also enjoys playing handbells and reading, especially the Harry Potter series. Lucas enjoys trivia, and participates in the Academic Bowl at his school. He is two-time defending champion of his school's National Geographic Bee and advanced to the Illinois state competition for the first time this year. Lucas is competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the third time, previously participating in 2011 and 2012. His experience at the Bee earned him a spot as a celebrity guest at a local performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 64, Pranav Sivakumar
Lake County Regional Office of Education, Grayslake, Illinois
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Barrington Middle School - Station Campus
Hometown: Tower Lakes, Illinois

Pranav studied Latin for several years, and when he’s learning new words, he finds it helps to make connections to this classical language. He loves the sciences, especially astronomy and astrophysics. This year, he won best research paper and best-in-category project in astronomy in the junior division of the Illinois Junior Academy of Science. Astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar is Pranav’s role model because the scientist wasn’t afraid to stand up to the establishment and made key discoveries about massive stars. When not studying space, Pranav enjoys watching cricket, especially batsman Sachin Tendulkar. His favorite book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and he spends a lot of time watching the night sky and wondering what it would be like to travel among the stars. This is Pranav's third consecutive appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee; he tied for 27th place in 2011 and for 22nd place in last year's competition.

Speller No. 69, Piper Winkler
Kane County Chronicle, Saint Charles, Illinois
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Elgin Academy
Hometown: Geneva, Illinois

Piper loves science, especially neuroscience, and reading pre-modern classics, such Plato’s The Republic or anything by William Shakespeare. She is also active in theater and is currently the stage manager for her school’s production of School House Rock Live! In addition to musical theater, she plays the piano and has been invited to play in the Achievement in Music recital for the past four years. Her role model is her Tae Kwon Do instructor Vicky, because she teaches students to believe in themselves and to stand up for what is right. Piper owns a Portuguese Water Dog named Sirius and loves listening to Mozart. In her free time, she volunteers as a docent for the local historical society.

Speller No. 73, Joseph Kirkpatrick
The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Highland Middle School
Hometown: Anderson, Indiana

Joe loves to listen to movie soundtracks, especially anything composed by John Williams. He plays the tenor saxophone in his school’s band and is in the drama club. Recently, he was invited to play in the Madison County Middle School Honor Band and was accepted into the Junior International Thespian Society. Outside of school, Joe is the sound technician at his church. He has practiced karate for six years and earned his green belt with a black stripe. When he grows up, he wants to be a pharmacist, just like his uncle Brian. Joe is returning to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the third time, having competed in 2010 and 2011.

Speller No. 74, Mary Skirvin
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Brown County Junior High School
Hometown: Nashville, Indiana

Mary is a natural-born performer and loves to sing, act and write as part of various theater programs and writers groups. She won gold medals for singing and piano at the Indiana State School Music Association contest, and won best non-musical curtain act in the 4-H Share the Fun talent show. Her diverse interests range from hippology and anime to raising chickens and the art of horror makeup. She is a connoisseur of the French language and loves to study anatomy and physiology, with plans to become a doctor. Mary is synesthetic and feels blessed to have that experience.

Speller No. 83, Margaret Peterson
South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Indiana
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: Granger, Indiana

Margaret plays violin in her school orchestra and at her church, and has sung at a diocesan choir festival for the past three years. She loves classical music and hopes to become a professional musician one day. An avid reader, Margaret is in both a book club and a Shakespeare club, and counts J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit among her favorite books. In her spare time, Margaret likes to cook, inline skate and play soccer, and she plants a new garden every year. Her favorite athlete is University of Notre Dame basketball standout Skylar Diggins. Margaret participated in the 2010 and 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 91, Vanya Shivashankar
The Olathe News, Olathe, Kansas
Age 11, 6th grade
School: California Trail Middle School
Hometown: Olathe, Kansas

Vanya loves being on stage, whether it's playing the piano or tuba, singing, dancing, acting or – of course – spelling. She also enjoys swimming, bike riding and playing with Champ, her family's Labrador Retriever. Vanya earned two individual bronze medals at the 2013 regional Science Olympiad and hopes to pursue a career in cardiac surgery. An energetic girl with an infectious smile, Vanya is already making her third appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, following in the footsteps of her sister Kavya, who was a four-time participant and the 2009 national champion. Vanya competed in the 2010 national finals, and tied for tenth place at last year's Bee.

Speller No. 93, Emily Keaton
Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, Lexington, Kentucky
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Christ Central School
Hometown: Pikeville, Kentucky

Emily’s favorite activity is photography, and she loves to capture images of everyday life, urban scenes, plants and food. She enjoys sketching everything from medieval swords to famous logos to manga versions of her friends. When not pursuing the arts, she likes to shop for unique room décor, care for her plants, and listen to country music, especially anything by Brad Paisley. Though she doesn’t consider it good luck, Emily wears a twisted rubber bracelet during every spelling bee because it reminds her of her buddies back home. In school, she is the president of student council and captain of the academic team, as well as the power forward on the basketball team. In fifth grade, she was named a Kentucky Colonel by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. Emily began competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2009, tying for 20th place in 2010, for 36th place in 2011 and for 22nd place last year.

Speller No. 97, Caleb Miller
The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: Calhoun, Louisiana

Caleb earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do last fall, and he enjoys watching movies, playing video games, singing in youth choir and collecting rocks, bottles and metal signs. He is a big fan of The Lord of the Rings series of books and movies, and can do a spot-on imitation of the Sméagol character from the films. Caleb is color blind, but won't let that stop him from pursuing a career in 3D animation or engineering. This is his third consecutive appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 115, Amber Born
The Daily Item, Lynn, Massachusetts
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Home School
Hometown: Marblehead, Massachusetts

Amber would love to be a comedy writer one day, finding inspiration in everything from classic comic strips like Calvin & Hobbes and Peanuts to TV sitcoms like Seinfeld and Frasier. Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres top her list of comedy role models. Amber plays keyboard in a Beatles tribute band, and she enjoys soccer, tennis, chess, fencing and playing piano. An avid reader, her favorite books include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Mysterious Benedict Society series. This is Amber's fourth consecutive appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She tied for 42nd place in 2012.

Speller No. 116, Matthew Donohue
Comcast, Taunton, Massachusetts
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Silver Lake Regional Middle School
Hometown: Kingston, Massachusetts

Matthew plays percussion in his school’s jazz band, and he is in the drama club and volunteers with the Best Buddies program. He also enjoys bowling and has won several trophies. His friends and family are his role models, and he appreciates the knowledge they continually share with him. He would love to meet Pope Francis because Matthew believes the new pontiff is kind and cares about everyone, regardless of social status. Before each spelling bee, he likes to eat a hearty bagel, especially an Asiago cheese one, for breakfast. To wind down and relax, Matthew likes to listen to the Beatles and hang out with friends.

Speller No. 122, Neha Seshadri
The County Press, Lapeer, Michigan
Age 12, 8th grade
School: F.A.I.T.H. Home School
Hometown: Imlay City, Michigan

Neha calls herself a "Triple S" girl to describe her love of singing, swimming and spelling. She also enjoys painting, dancing and playing piano, and loves to grow plants and collect shells and rocks. Neha could also make a case for being a "Quadruple Bee" girl: she has been a national finalist in science, spelling, geography and vocabulary bees through the North South Foundation. Neha is a Michigan State Championship Swimmer, a Junior Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist, and has now qualified for Central Zone Swimming 2013. She likes to try different varieties of food and even makes her own healthy smoothies. Neha likes reading, not just books (her favorite is The Hunger Games), but also palms, a skill she learned from her grandpa.

Speller No. 125, Kuvam Shahane
The Oakland Press, Pontiac, Michigan
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Van Hoosen Middle School
Hometown: Rochester Hills, Michigan

Kuvam is fluent in five languages – including American Sign Language – and enjoys chess, robotics, tennis and baseball. He excels in math and science and participates in the Science Olympiad, Mathcounts and the math club at his school. Kuvam placed second in the Michigan Math League and made the hall of fame in the Michigan National Math Pentathlon. Kuvam aspires to become an author one day, and he would most like to meet President Barack Obama. He enjoys reading, and his favorite book is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Kuvam participated in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 129, Emma Greenlee
Lakes Country Service Cooperative, Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Mesabi East High School
Hometown: Aurora, Minnesota

A talented skier, Emma qualified for the Minnesota State High School Nordic ski meet in 2012 and 2013 and volunteers for the Minnesota Youth Ski League. She is a member of her school's varsity soccer and track teams, and participates in the Knowledge Bowl. Emma plays French horn and violin and participates in band at her school. An honor roll student, Emma enjoys reading, and her favorite book is Mississippi Jack by Louis A. Meyer. Emma, who aspires to a career as a biologist of some sort, also participated in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Speller No. 142, Gokul Venkatachalam
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Parkway West Middle School
Hometown: Chesterfield, Missouri

Gokul likes to swim and play basketball. A huge sports fan, his rooting allegiances span the country: the St. Louis Cardinals are his favorite baseball team; when it comes to basketball, it's the Miami Heat; and for football, he likes the Houston Texans. Gokul enjoys reading and his favorite book is Crocodile Tears, the eighth novel in the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. He is involved in extracurricular activities like playing cello in the school orchestra and participating in the Math Olympiad program. Gokul excels at math and would like to become a scientist one day. He is competing in his second consecutive Scripps National Spelling Bee after tying for tenth place in last year's competition.

Speller No. 154, Ryan Devanandan
Times Union, Albany, New York
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Sand Creek Middle School
Hometown: Albany, New York

Ryan enjoys music (he plays violin and piano), programming and exploring mathematics (he's working on tensor calculus these days). He participates in his school's math, engineering and music clubs, and hopes to one day pursue a career as a psychiatrist. Ryan likes classical music best of all and his favorite musician is David Garrett, a record-breaking German classical violinist. His favorite book is A Study in Scarlet, the classic by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that introduces the character Sherlock Holmes. Ryan correctly spelled prevaricate to win the regional bee and advance to his first Scripps National Spelling Bee. No lie.

Speller No. 156, Sriram Hathwar
Corning Rotary Club, Corning, New York
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Alternative School for Math & Science
Hometown: Painted Post, New York

Sriram has a passion for skiing, swimming, skating and ping pong, and he also plays a pretty good game of badminton. He’s an avid musician who plays oboe in a jazz band and can chant Sanskrit hymns while playing the piano accompaniment. Sriram's first time competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee was in 2008, and he tied for 37th place in 2009 and for 6th place in 2011. In 2011, he delivered a talk on his Bee experiences at the TEDx Chemung River event in the Southern Tier of New York, where he lives with his family. For breakfast before every spelling bee, he eats oatmeal with berries, but just before the event, he snacks on M&M’s Minis for luck. Sriram would love to go back in time to meet Gandhi to learn more about how to maintain inner peace while promoting world peace.

Speller No. 163, Arvind Mahankali
Daily News, New York, New York
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Nathaniel Hawthorne´╗┐ Middle School 74
Hometown: Bayside Hills, New York

Arvind loves math and science and hopes to one day pursue a career as a physicist. That explains his choice of role model and the person he would most like to meet (Albert Einstein), but doesn't explain his favorite song ("I Believe I Can Fly"). A speaker of Telugu and Spanish, Arvind enjoys tennis, basketball and drama, and counts Novak Djokovic and Shaquille O'Neal among his favorite athletes. Arvind is making his fourth consecutive trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He placed ninth in 2010 and finished in third place in both 2011 and 2012. Of all the words he's seen and spelled, his favorite so far is sardoodledom.

Speller No. 190, Joseph Delamerced
9 On Your Side, Cincinnati, Ohio
Age 13, 7th grade
School: The Summit Country Day School
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Having taught himself to read when he was only 3 years old, it’s no surprise that Joseph's favorite thing to do is immerse himself in a book. He loves all things literary and his best-loved works include science-fiction fantasy hits Brain Jack by Brian Falkner, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart. Joseph has been teaching a chess class to middle school and high school students for three years, and he teaches a Greek mythology course, as well. He qualified for the regional competition in the Power of the Pen, a writing prompt contest, and his school’s team placed second. Joseph eats penne pasta with olive oil before every spelling bee. Spelling runs in Joseph's family: his sister Anna participated in the 2008 Bee and his brother Tino tied for 12th place in 2009. This is Joseph's second appearance at the national finals, having competed in 2011.

Speller No. 191, Ashwin Veeramani
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Incarnate Word Academy
Hometown: North Royalton, Ohio

Ashwin takes two things he does best — reading nonfiction and spelling — and combines them to study for bees. He pores over current newspapers and magazines (The Wall Street Journal and Time are his favorites) to find words to spell and learn about current events. Ashwin has won several regional awards and qualified for state competitions in science and math. He aspires to be like Bill Gates, hoping to expand his primary interest in engineering into innovative product development. To this end, Ashwin takes a keen interest in business principles. When not busy with school, spelling practice or reading, Ashwin enjoys video games, drumming and golf. He also practices Tae Kwon Do as a black belt.

Speller No. 209, Aditya Rao
The Express-Times, Easton, Pennsylvania
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Lopatcong Township Middle School
Hometown: Phillipsburg, New Jersey

Aditya enjoys participating in a wide variety of activities, from solar-car team and choir at his school to Mini Model Congress, Lego MindStorms competitions, Battle of the Books and InvestWrite. He also loves music and plays both the piano and tabla, a type of Indian drum. Fluent in the Indian language Kannada, Aditya likes hiking, ice skating and, you guessed it, eating raw lemons! His role model is his maternal great grand aunt, who was acclaimed for her books, some of which she published before she graduated from college, and her social service to women in socioeconomic distress.

Speller No. 211, Hannah Citsay
Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Age 13, 7th grade
School: St. Anne School
Hometown: Lititz, Pennsylvania

On the high honor roll at her school, Hannah loves to challenge herself academically. She earned second place at the National History Day regional competition, third place at her school science fair, and second place in the county science fair. She also plays basketball and softball and her teams have earned several awards for tournament success. Artistically, Hannah enjoys playing the bells and xylophone, and her favorite book is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. She's not sure where her varied interests will take her career-wise, but she knows she wants to pursue "something that leaves a positive impact on the world."

Speller No. 234, Jonathan Caldwell
Middle Tennessee State University School of Journalism, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Age 13, 7th grade
School: Merrol Hyde Magnet School
Hometown: Hendersonville, Tennessee

Jonathan is in love with words. He reads dictionaries to build a wider and deeper vocabulary, and he is fascinated by etymology and what that teaches him about the words he uses. Jonathan also has such diverse interests as practicing and performing magic tricks, playing golf, running cross-country and playing trumpet in the school band. Jonathan competes in the academic trivia competition, Quiz Bowl. He has achieved second place in individual regional Quiz Bowl and helped his team place fourth overall. Along with his two sisters and Golden Retriever, Buddy, Jonathan enjoys working on traveling to all fifty states (43 so far!) and to many National Parks.

Speller No. 238, Chetan Reddy
The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas
Age 13, 8th grade
School: C.M. Rice Middle School
Hometown: Plano, Texas

Chetan prides himself on his sports skills, including basketball, cricket, badminton and table tennis. Cricket is his favorite and he’s a member of the Dallas Youth Cricket League. His sports figures of choice also reflect his interests: his favorites are Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. Chetan also enjoys music and movies, and he’s the captain of his school’s Whiz Quiz team. Chetan is a seasoned veteran of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and is making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Bee this year. He has previously placed 27th in 2011 and tied for 22nd place last year.

Speller No. 241, Shobha Dasari
HoustonPBS, Houston, Texas
Age 12, 6th grade
School: Leon Sablatura Middle School
Hometown: Pearland, Texas

Besides spelling, Shobha loves science and math. If she had to pick one, science is her favorite, and she would like to pursue a career as a medical researcher. Shobha knows a little bit of Telugu and German. She enjoys Indian classical dancing and art. Her favorite book is Matched by Ally Condie. Shobha's role model is 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Kavya Shivashankar, who won the Bee the same year Shobha started competitive spelling.

Speller No. 242, Syamantak Payra
HoustonPBS, Houston, Texas
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Westbrook Intermediate School
Hometown: Friendswood, Texas

Syamantak has a wide array of hobbies and interests. His favorite things to do include building computers, reading, playing music, swimming and playing ping-pong. He also loves building with Legos and is a licensed amateur radio operator. Academically, Syamantak participates in many competitions throughout the year, including science fairs and math club. He won a gold medal in the Physics/Astronomy division at his 2013 district science fair and placed third at 2013 Science and Engineering Fair of Houston. Syamantak also thrives in scientific and creative writing. He’s published more than 12 poems and essays in anthology collections and magazines. He also won second place in the Scientific Writing Contest at the 2013 Science and Engineering Fair of Houston.

Speller No. 256, Vismaya Kharkar
The Valley Journals, Salt Lake City, Utah
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Challenger School
Hometown: Bountiful, Utah

Vismaya is making her third consecutive appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and is looking to improve on her tenth-place finish at the 2012 Bee. She placed seventh at the  state level of the National Geographic Bee and took first place in the Medicine & Health Sciences division of the Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair, earning an invitation to the international Broadcom Masters competition scheduled for August. Vismaya has been awarded a superior rating seven times by the Piano Federation, and she is a two-time recipient of the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. In her spare time, she enjoys watercolor painting, drawing, singing, reading and travel.

Speller No. 257, Ronan Howlett
The Burlington Free Press, Burlington, Vermont
Age 14, 8th grade
School: Middlebury Union Middle School
Hometown: Cornwall, Vermont

It’s rare to find Ronan in an idle moment. He stays busy with hiking, soccer, track and field, school council and Mathcounts. He won the Vermont state competition for Mathcounts and was invited to participate in the national competition in May. Ronan has spent a fair amount of time traversing the globe with his family – he was born in Japan and lived in New Zealand for three years. Ronan returns to the Scripps National Spelling Bee after competing in the Bee in 2012.

Speller No. 268, Shayley Martin
The Roanoke Times, Roanoke, Virginia
Age 12, 7th grade
School: Floyd Elementary School
Hometown: Riner, Virginia

When she's not cooking, songwriting and gardening, Shayley likes to delve into her hobbies of writing narrative fiction and poems. She frequently enters essay and story writing competitions and manages her own cooking blog, which she hopes to someday parlay into a career as a food writer or chef. She also helps her family raise chickens and maintain a small greenhouse where they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, including her favorite food, black raspberries. Shayley participated in the 2011 and 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bees.

Speller No. 273, Sophia Limacher
Town Hall Seattle, Seattle, Washington
Age 13, 8th grade
School: Lakeside Middle School
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Sophia enjoys playing viola, and she's so taken with the instrument that the person she would most like to meet is German violist Tabea Zimmermann, who she had the chance to hear in concert last summer. She also loves writing poetry and was a 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing gold medalist and a 2012 River of Words national finalist. Sophia likes karate and counts late martial artist Ed Parker among her favorite athletes. She achieved a perfect score on the 2012 National Latin Exam and hopes to turn her love of drawing into a career in architecture when she grows up.


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