Fourteen-year-old Houston, Texas native Harini Logan is the face of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.
After a riveting competition among the country’s best spellers, Logan went head to head with 12-year-old Vikram Raju in a spell off. The two were tested on how many words they could spell correctly within 90 seconds. Out of 26 words, Harini correctly spelled 21. Despite being challenged by the country’s best spellers, the Texan was rewarded the championship title with a trophy and a whopping $50,000.
“I think honestly so surreal, it’s my fourth time at the Bee,” she said following her big win, according to CNN. “This is such a dream, this is my fourth bee and I’m just so overwhelmed.”
However, out of the other spelling bees Logan competed at, this year was historic: it was the first time in Scripps Spelling Bee history that competitors were asked to do a spell-off. Due to this factor, the champion admitted she was thrown off her rhythm. “At first I was a little uneasy and I decided to take it in stride … I just had to take a deep breath and tell myself to go out there and do my best and whatever happens, happens,” she shared.
Getting its start in 1925, the National Spelling Bee is the nation’s longest-running educational program. Over the last few years, the competition has had some bumps in the road that have made competing slightly more challenging.
In 2020, the Bee was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As things progressively became easier to handle, the Bee returned the following year, but with a slight twist: it was held virtually. In addition, the competition only had 209 participants, compared to the previous 562 in 2019.
As the first year back in person, the event was certainly high stakes. And, as the fourth time competing in the Bee, Logan certainly felt the pressure.
Harini Logan opens up about the tactics she used to remain calm during the stressful competition
“Harini has been to hell and back with her spelling bee experiences,” Grace Walters, longtime coach to the spelling champion, said in an interview with AP.
Harini discussed her stress levels during the competition and detailed how she remained calm during this high-stakes competition. “I think it would have been really easy for me to get deterred, to get sort of like, ‘Wow, why am I missing so much?’” she said. “Really just focusing on the next word and knowing that I’m still in, I think was just a big relief for me.”
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