If "Akeelah and the Bee" taught us anything — besides cementing Laurence Fishburne, Keke Palmer and Angela Bassett's acting chops — it's that making it big in the Scripps National Spelling Bee is no small feat.
Words bind us together, a sort of living, breathing representation of all that we are and all that we will be. Prefixes frustrate us. Etymology confuses us. Yet here we are, standing in a tempest of language that has been adjusted and readjusted to give us the paintbrush that colors our everyday life.
It's all so interesting, and it's what makes the Scripps National Spelling Bee such important viewing. Seeing these youngsters come to grips with Latin and Greek, German and Dutch, it's all so very cool. And it's all so very valuable, too.
The finale of this year's competition features 11 brilliant minds. They've found a way through the mire, skipping past every linguistic pothole with relative ease. They even cracked a smile under the scorching National Harbor spotlight.
So, who are these magnificent 11? Here's what you need to know about the Scripps National Spelling Bee's finalists this year as they showcase their spelling skills on the country's biggest stage.
2/2 Announcing our 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finalists! #Speller119 Sarah Fernandes, #Speller172 Pranav Anandh, #Speller192Tarini Nandakumar, #Speller213 Surya Kapu, and #Speller223Charlotte Walsh! #spellingbee pic.twitter.com/Jlwba5TonU— Scripps National Spelling Bee (@ScrippsBee) May 31, 2023
Hailing from sunny San Ramon, California, Dhruv Subramanian is a 12-year-old spelling whiz. A kid filled with all sorts of interests, Subramanian finds inspiration from a variety of sources. Those include famed Indian cricketer M.S. Dhoni and Sushruta, the author of Sushruta Samhita, one of the most important pieces of medical literature to ever be produced. He's traveled to more than 25 countries in his short life, a spell-binding globetrotter in more ways than one.
Despite being just 14 years old, Vikrant Chintanaboina has plenty of experience in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Chintanaboina made his debut in 2019 and has twice cracked the Top-51. He is a soccer fanatic and a video-game-loving teen. He just happens to be able to spell and define words at a prodigious rate.
A fellow San Ramon resident like Subramanian, Shradha Rachamreddy is a jack of all trades. She's competing in her third career Scripps National Spelling Bee, having tied for 23rd place at last year's event. In her free time, Shradha likes writing, playing badminton and learning Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance that pays homage to various South Indian motifs around religion and spirituality.
Arth Dalsania is yet another Californian to make it big at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Thousand Oaks native has rocketed himself up the standings compared to his T-43rd finish in 2021. Like any 14-year-old, Dalsania enjoys a medley of extracurricular activities, including reading, tennis and chess. A budding violinist, Dalsania has shown a real proclivity for the world of science thus far. He hopes to become an astrophysicist one day.
Dev Shah is enjoying by far his most successful run in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He has shown a diverse range of hobbies, taking his mind off things by playing tennis, reading and playing the cello. He's a historical fiction fanatic, both in book and film form.
Aryan Khedkar is a Harry Potter fan through and through. His favorite book in the series is the last one, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." When his nose isn't scrunched into the margins of fine literature, you can likely find the Waterford, Mich. native with his fingers gripped on either his bass clarinet or his Rubik's cube. He's a big hoop guy, as well.
Sarah Fernandes has racked up quite the musical resume at the tender age of 11. The Omaha resident is a piano ace, so much so that she performed at Carnegie Hall. Music is her passion, with Fernandes even accompanying a professional orchestra. She uses her musical gifts to help those dealing with struggles.
Pranav Anandh and Aryan Khedkar share two distinct similarities: both are spelling pros and both are Rubik's cube enthusiasts. Pranav, 14, loves a bit of competition; he's represented the U.S. in robotics competitions over the past few years and hails from Morton, Penn.
Tarini Nandakumar has a great appreciation for creativity. The Austin native is a big fan of the Harry Potter series and spends her free time engaging in a number of activities: from dancing to building intricate structures with LEGOs. She has two pets who are the light of her world, Simba and Beau.
Surya Kapu is putting on for the SLC. The Salt Lake City citizen is much like Lauri Markannen in the way he handles new environments. He went from a 370th-place finish in 2019 to a fifth-place finish three years later. Now, he is one of the favorites to land the grand prize come Thursday. Kapu is as active as they get, filling his days with tae kwon do, basketball, playing the saxophone and whatever can keep his mind and body moving.
A product of Merrifield, Virginia, Charlotte Walsh is pursuing a black belt in tae kwon doe. The 14-year-old hopes to pursue a career in either astrophysics or neuroscience. She's a Swiftie who tries to give back to her community any way she can, volunteering at Washington D.C.-based food bank So Others Might Eat once a month.