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No trap for spelling champ

'Guetapens,' meaning ambush or snare, gives title to San Diego girl

June 01, 2012|From Staff and Wire Reports
  • Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of San Diego, right, is congratulated by her father, Krishnarao, left, and brother Sujan after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md. Her winning word: "guetapens."
Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of San Diego, right, is congratulated by her father,… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

A 14-year-old girl from San Diego has won the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling "guetapens," a French-derived word that means an ambush, snare or trap.

Snigdha Nandipati, an eighth-grader at Francis Parker School in La Jolla, was calm and collected throughout as she beat out eight other finalists Thursday at the competition in Oxon Hill, Md.

Her grandfather had reportedly promised her a trip to India if she won.

She is an avid reader and coin collector who aspires to become a psychiatrist or neurosurgeon. She plays violin and is fluent in Telugu.

After she spelled the word, she looked from side to side, as if unsure her accomplishment was real. Oddly, she was not immediately announced as the winner.

Applause built slowly, and a few pieces of confetti trickled out before showering her. Then her 10-year-old brother ran onstage and embraced her, and she beamed.

"I knew it. I'd seen it before," Snigdha said of the winning word. "I just wanted to ask everything I could before I started spelling."

In the run-up to the bee, Snigdha studied six to 10 hours a day on weekdays and 10 to 12 hours on weekends -- a regimen she'll need to maintain to get through medical school, her father said.

"She says this is harder than being a neurosurgeon -- maybe," said her mother, Madhavi.

Snigdha is the fifth consecutive Indian American winner and 10th in the last 14 years.

Stuti Mishra of West Melbourne, Fla., finished second after misspelling "schwarmerei," which means excessive, unbridled enthusiasm.

Prizes for winning the bee include $30,000 in cash, a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship, $2,600 in reference works from the Encyclopedia Britannica and an online language course.

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