A Florida 14-year-old earned the title of America’s top speller Thursday evening in the Scripps National Spelling Bee after a rollercoaster of a spelling career.
The third time was the charm for eighth-grader Dev Shah, as this year marked his third trip to the national stage, but his first win. He previously competed for the Scripps trophy in 2019 and 2021, tying for 51st place and 76th place, respectively.
Shah, who attends Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo, Florida, won the trophy after successfully spelling “psammophile.” He was awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.
Other notable words under his belt from this year’s national bee are bathypitotmeter, aegagrus, schistorrhachis and perioeci.
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The teenager is also the 22nd champion in the past 24 years with South Asian heritage. His father immigrated to the U.S. from India 29 years ago to obtain a master’s degree in electrical engineering, according to The Associated Press. Shah’s brother is also a rising junior at Yale.
Shah’s father told The Associated Press that his son showed an “incredible recall” with words beginning at 3 years old, adding that he spent many years participating in academic competitions with nonprofit North South Foundation.
Despite his academic talent, it was only 15 months ago when Shah wasn’t sure if he would return to the national competition. After a fourth-place finish last year at his regional bee in Orlando, he said he “didn’t know if [he] wanted to keep continuing.”
After at least four months of getting “back on track,” Shah’s hard work paid off and he won this year’s regional competition by correctly spelling “fustanella,” punching his ticket to the national stage in Washington, D.C.
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Shah was crowned the champion over 228 other participants in this year’s national bee, which is open to students up to the eighth grade.
Charlotte Walsh, a 14-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, was the runner-up.
Words used in the Scripps National Spelling Bee come from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged dictionary. Any entry is fair game in the national competition, except for words designated as archaic or obsolete.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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