The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 23, 2021 1:00 am

JG bee champ crams for nationals, beyond

13-year-old from Canterbury preps for virtual contest

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

Ishan Ramrakhiani studies about an hour each night to prepare for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

When the national competition ends in July, he doesn't plan on taking a break but will continue studying this summer. He expects that will increase his chances of “winning next year.”

Ramrakhiani, a 13-year-old seventh grader at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, will represent The Journal Gazette at the national spelling bee, which begins June 12 with preliminary rounds.

In March, Ramrakhiani won this year's Regional Spelling Bee, sponsored by STAR Financial Bank. Because of COVID-19, the regional competition was virtual.

Ramrakhiani outlasted 17 other students from northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. His victory came in the 12th round when he correctly spelled “pecuniary,” an adjective that means “relating to or consisting of money.”

“The Journal Gazette is proud of our 67-year history in organizing the area spelling bee,” said Heather Heal, secretary/treasurer of The Journal Gazette Co. “In a year that has been anything but ordinary, we would like to acknowledge the hard work and discipline of Ishan and wish him the best of luck as he competes in the national bee.”

The national spelling bee was canceled last year because of COVID-19.

Though this is his first national bee, Ramrakhiani isn't new to spelling competitions.

This is the second consecutive year he has won the Canterbury School spelling bee. He was the school runner-up in 2018. Last year, he tied for third in the Allen County bee, which included students from other county schools.

He said he got the spelling bug in third grade after winning Canterbury's lower school bee. “I liked it so I kept doing it,” he said.

He began studying last October for this year's competitions. Along with reviewing words during the evenings, he studies during breaks in the school day. He uses an online software, and his father, Sunil, quizzes him.

Ramrakhiani said he used to read more than he does now, but spelling took time away from that.

“It's not so much about memorizing every word,” he said. “It's about exposure.”

During the preliminary rounds, which will be virtual, spellers will receive assigned times and complete up to three rounds. If they correctly spell a word in round one, they will immediately move on to a word-meaning question in round two. If they correctly answer that, they will receive a third-round three spelling word.

Spellers who correctly spell their third-round words will advance to the quarterfinals June 15. 

The virtual quarterfinals and semifinals June 27 will more closely resemble the traditional in-person experience. A speller will spell once per round and remain in the competition unless they misspell.

Ten to 12 spellers will advance to the final rounds of this year's bee July 8 at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. It will be hosted in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and broadcast live in prime time on ESPN2.

“I'm nervous because there's going to be oral vocabulary,” he said.

When he's not studying, he enjoys video games, especially “Fortnite.”


Scripps National Spelling Bee

(1st three rounds virtual; finals in Orlando, Fla.)Preliminaries: Saturday, June 12, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

Quarterfinals: Tuesday, June 15, noon to 6 p.m. (ESPN3)

Semifinals: Sunday, June 27, 7 to 11 p.m. (ESPN2)

Finals: Thursday, July 8, 8 to 10 p.m. (ESPN2)

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