Loudoun Student Advances in National Spelling Bee

While most children are looking forward to a summer away from academics, spelling superstar and 14-year-old Ashburn student, Ashrita Gandhari will take the national stage Sunday, competing in her fourth Scripps Spelling Bee National Semifinals.

Gandhari, a recent graduate of Stone Hill Middle school, is one of the most dominant spellers in the nation. She has competed in each of the past three national bees, in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

In the quarterfinal competition last week, Gandhari spelled the word “pomfret” correctly, earning a bid to the semifinals, which will feature the top 30 spellers in a virtual competition Sunday.

The rising ninth grader has been spelling competitively since she was five, when she worked her way into a competition intended for elementary school students and ultimately went on to win third place.

“I’m a pretty competitive person. I really like the thrill of competition. I’m also really fond of the English language and how it takes words from other languages. I think the English language is really beautiful,” said Gandhari.

Surprisingly, her favorite subject in school is math, and she hopes to become a surgeon. 

“I’ve always been a really structures and methodical person,” she said.

Preparing for competition takes hours. Her mother, Sirisha Gandhari, said her daughter will practice for ten hours a day. Gandhari’s parents and younger sister help out, quizzing her and going through flash cards.

Gandhari said she is feeling nervous as competition day approaches. While she would love to win, she’s satisfied with her accomplishments to date.

“Obviously, every person’s goal is to win the national spelling bee. But I’ve already come so far, I’m a semi-finalist, I’m really grateful for how far I’ve come and I know I’ve worked hard,” she said.

The Scripps National Semifinals will take place virtually on June 27 starting at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN2. 

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