After nearly four hours and 22 rounds of completion, Anoushka Upadhye, an eighth grade student from Stone Hill Middle School, was crowned Loudoun’s newest spelling champion.
The 36th annual Loudoun Regional Spelling Bee was held Thursday night at Stone Bridge High School, with 76 5th- to 8th-grade spellers representing all 17 middle schools, 55 elementary schools and the Virginia Academy, the Hillsboro Charter Academy, St. Theresa School and the Loudoun Country Day School.
Anoushka, the runner-up in last year’s bee, won in the 22nd round after Aleesha Khurram, an eighth grade student from Trailside Middle School, misspelled the word “fustian”—swapping an ‘o’ for the ‘a.’
Anoushka’s winning word was “cinematheque,” an originally Greek word used to describe a small movie theater that specializes in avant-garde films. Right from the start, it seemed like she knew how to spell the word.
“Even though you already gave me it, I’m just going to ask for everything,” Anoushka said to William Waldman, the bee’s pronouncer and the principal of Smart’s Mill Middle School.
Once Anoushka finished spelling the word, Waldman said it was ironic that she got the word “systematic” earlier in the bee. “The whole time I was thinking … this is the most systematic speller,” he said.
Throughout the spelling bee’s initial eight rounds, in which 68 spellers were ultimately eliminated, the contestants were faced with words including prosciutto, renaissance and dreidel. Perhaps the timeliest word Waldman read was Holi, a Hindu springtime festival that began on Thursday.
Once the competition got a little more difficult, moving into rounds that featured words the spellers hadn’t heard in previous bees, six spellers were eliminated within the first four rounds.
The win earned Anoushka a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, next month to represent Loudoun County. When asked how she would prepare for this national spelling bee, Anoushka said she would “study every day, like the whole dictionary—I don’t have a secret.”