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2 Tri-State girls headed to Scripps National Spelling Bee

Tri-State Scripps National Spelling Bee spellers.png
Posted at 6:22 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 18:29:20-04

CINCINNATI — The Scripps National Spelling Bee kicks off Tuesday and two young girls from Kentucky and Ohio are hoping to hoist the trophy.

It's a "bee-peat" for both Kentucky's Tara Rakesh and Ohio's Sahana Srikanth.

"I was so elated," Sahana said. "I was beyond words."

The pandemic slowed down both girls' winning streaks.

"I actually made it to the be in 2020, but of course it was canceled," Tara said.

But this weekend, the two are heading to the D.C. area for the Scripps National Bee. Since they won their regional bee, they've since wrapped up the school year and studied hard for the bee. For them, it's more than just memorizing words.

"I'm delving deeper into languages. I learned Latin Greek spelling patterns at roots," Sahana said. "Now when I'm looking at words, it's not like, okay, this is a sequence of letters. It's like, now I know why that sequence of letters exists."

This is Tara's second national bee, but she's experienced the big stage before from afar.

"I mostly started getting into bees because my sister did spelling bees before me and I used to like, watch her do those and I developed an interest for it," Tara said.

Since the Rakesh sisters are only two years apart, the girls have gone head to head. It's something their mom, Radha Rakesh, says is nerve-wracking.

"It was hard as a mom to be in the audience to have both of them on stage, because I wanted both of them to perform well," Radha said.

"Sometimes it could be like disappointing when like the other sibling wins, but once you like, sort of get over that initial disappointment, we're just like happy for each other," Tara said.

As for Sahana, her dad has been using unconventional techniques to get her ready.

"At the end of the list, he added some random word that I, I was like, 'what is this? So I asked him questions as if it was a real word," Sahana said.

"I would say a fake word tells her, you know, maybe to be humble, You know, new words and second it's making her maybe think about those new words she might encounter," Srikanth Akkaram said. "So that she's not that serious about spelling all the time."

Tara and Sahana are more than great spellers. Tara does archery, creates art and composes music. Sahana crochets, plays violin and is looking to create an app to help other spellers.

They say the Bee has helped them excel in those other arenas.

"It's shaped me as a person today," Sahana said. "And I can't like see myself today, how I would be like without spelling."

"Spelling in front of a bunch of people helps to build my confidence," Tara said.

This year, the Bee will welcome 234 spellers from May 31 to June 2 for the national rounds in National Harbor, Maryland. The champion this year will receive a $50,000 cash prize.

Preliminaries will begin May 31, quarterfinals are scheduled for June 1 and finals will take place June 2. Actor and educator LeVar Burton will serve as the host during the semifinal and final rounds.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will be televised live on ION and Bounce network. Both are available to cable, streaming and over-the-air television viewers free of charge.

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