When it comes to spelling, a local 8th grader will stop at nothing. Not even a fainting spell, that brought him to the stage floor. That’s just part of the drama that surrounded Colorado Springs teenager Akshay Buddiga during the final rounds of the 77th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
The stakes are high, with $17,000 worth of cash and prizes on the line. That could have contributed to the 13-year-old’s collapse during the 6th round of the competition. Trying to spell the word “Alopecoid,” Akshay became lightheaded and fell to the floor. But seconds later, he got to his feet, returned to the microphone, and correctly spelled the word. That wowed the packed house. For the rest of the competition, Akshay was allowed to sit on a stool, rather than stand at center-stage.
At Mountain Ridge Middle School in Briargate, administrators and staff watched, and held their breath with every letter. And they cheered on this talented student. "He was so nervous and excited---probably a month before---he was really working hard," said Cherie Hayes.
Expert spelling runs in the Buddiga blood. His older brother, Pratyush, won the National Spelling Bee two years ago. "A lot of pressure with the media because his brother had just recently won," said Hayes.
In the 14th round, there were just two spellers left: David Tidmarsh of Indiana, and Akshay. The Colorado Springs teen was given the word “schwarmerei.” He was also given a time penalty by the judges for taking too long to answer in the previous round. And that made a big difference. Akshay spelled it “svermari” and then had to wait to see if the other remaining speller would trip up as well. He did not.
But Akshay Buddiga still took 2nd place in a competition that started with 10 million students---all trying to be the best speller in the U.S.