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Issue Date: September 2009

To Spell and Back

Jennifer Keirn
The pressure was Brobdingnagian in scale, enough to reduce the average 13-year-old to a flibbertigibbet.

But not Anamika Veeramani, the North Royalton spelling champ who faced such stumpers as “arrhostia” and “simnel” as one of 11 finalists in May’s nationally televised Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Veeramani’s been competing in school spelling contests since the age of 7, and by fourth grade was beating eighth graders. This was her first trip to the national bee, where she made it to the final five before misspelling “fackeltanz,” a torchlight procession set to music for German royal weddings or celebrations.

We checked in with Veeramani, who is beginning eighth grade at Incarnate Word Academy and preparations for a 2010 run at the championship, to talk about what it’s like to take the spelling test of your life.

You seemed very calm when you were eliminated, but what were you feeling?
I felt upset, but I don’t really show my emotions very much. I have, like, a poker face. Plus, if I had to go back and watch myself crying, that would be really embarrassing.

Ever had any embarrassing spelling moments?
A couple of years ago at school, I was pulling up the search engine Google and spelled it “Googol” [a mathematical term meaning 10 to the 100th power]. Everyone was making fun of me because I’m supposed to be this great speller but I misspelled Google.

Do you have any anti-spelling stress relievers?
I want to be an author and a cardiovascular surgeon eventually, so I work on drafts of books I want to get published.

What’s your favorite word?

Xat [pronounced like “cat,” meaning a type of carved Native American totem pole]. One of the girls at the bee told me about it.

What’s your least favorite word?
Fackeltanz. I’ll never forget it.

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