Florida Teen Wins National Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee
"Spelling bee" spelled out in blocks. | Image by Tada Images/Shutterstock

Does anyone know what a psammophile is? This uncommon word decided Dev Shah’s fate on Thursday when he correctly spelled it and emerged as the champion of the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

He took home a commemorative trophy and $50,000 in cash.

Shah competed alongside over 200 contestants from across the nation in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. The contest was held between May 30 and June 1 in National Harbor, Maryland.

The 14-year-old from Largo, Florida, faced off against Charlotte Walsh from Virginia in the final round.

“I’m so happy for him,” said fellow 14-year-old Walsh, according to NBC 5. “I’ve known Dev for many years, and I know how much work he’s put into this and I’m so, so glad he won.”

Walsh earned $25,000 by coming in at second place.

This was Shah’s second trip to compete in the national competition, having first qualified to attend in 2019.

But his spelling career wasn’t always smooth sailing.

He missed the 2022 spelling bee after not making it through the rain-soaked regional spelling competition held outdoors in Orlando.

“Despondent is the right word,” Shah said, according to PBS. “I just didn’t know if I wanted to keep continuing.”

His mother, Nilam Shah, explained that it took him a while to shake the loss, but when he did, he came back more determined and more focused than ever.

He began to exercise alongside his studying and shed about 15 pounds.

It also taught him a lesson in resilience, which Shah’s spelling coach Scott Remer said paid off by giving him some “grit.”

“He appreciated that this is a journey, which sounds very trite but is really quite true,” Remer explained, according to PBS.

While Shah emerged victorious, there were 11 competitors that made it to the finals. The only Texan was 12-year-old Tarini Nandakumar from the Austin area, who exited in the second round.

Faizan Zaki from Allen was the highest achieving North Texan, who secured a spot in the semifinals, as The Dallas Express reported. The 11-year-old ultimately failed to find the correct definition of the word besotted, which means infatuated.

So, what exactly does Shah’s winning word psammophile mean?

“Psammo meaning sand, Greek?” Shah asked, buying time before spelling out the word, according to NBC 5. “Phile, meaning love, Greek?”

Psammophile refers to an organism that prefers sandy environments.

Congratulations to any wordsmiths who correctly guessed it!

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