2 New Jersey natives among 8 co-champions in Scripps National Spelling Bee

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Friday, May 31, 2019
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Lauren Glassberg reports on the talented group of students who are sharing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee title.

You can call them the Elite 8.

Two New Jersey natives are among a talented group of students who are sharing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee title.

Each winner will receive his or her own trophy, along with the full winner's prize of $50,000 in cash.

The eight co-champions spelled the final 47 words correctly, going five consecutive, perfect rounds for 3.5 hours.

Among the winners are Christopher Serrao, a 13-year-old from Whitehouse Station in Hunterdon County, and 13-year-old Shruthika Padhy, of Cherry Hill.

"I was like literally out of breath," teacher Jennifer Aristone said. "I'm like, just get it right! Every time they darkened a letter that she got right, I was that much closer to victory."

Padhy had a cheering squad from Rosa International Middle School glued to their TVs, and teacher Kim Pennock described the tense moments.

"I was holding onto my son, and he was like, 'Let go of me,'" Pennock said.

Shruthika is known for being a straight-A student, a competitive field hockey player, and of course, an expert speller, logging hours and hours of practice, according to her principal, George Guy.

"These are not middle school words, per se, but they are Shruthika Padhy words, definitely," Guy said.

Her teachers know that as Shruthika asks clarifying questions on stage, she is strategizing how to proceed.

"I think it is very strategic," Aristone said. "When she's looking at the words, she's looking at the root words -- the Greek, the Latin root words. She understands that certain endings comes from certain languages."

After the bee stretched for hours, the pronouncer finally said those left after the 20th round would all be declared winners.

The eight victors were on "Good Morning America" Friday morning.

"It's amazing to be able to share the title," Padhy said. "It's even more special because we get to share it with seven other amazing spellers."

The celebrations will continue with a party in school next week. Padhy is also expected to be honored by the school board.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee winners are: Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja.


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