As the confetti rained down after he won the 86th Scripps Spelling Bee on Thursday night, Arvind Mahankali, 13, was calm.
“It hadn’t completely registered yet that I had won so I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of what had just happened,’’ Mahankali said on TODAY Friday.
The teen from Queens, N.Y., took home the title by spelling the word “knaidel,” a German-derived Yiddish word which refers to a type of dumpling. In the last two Scripps Spelling Bees, Mahankali had placed third after being eliminated by words with a German origin.
“This year I decided that no matter what, I wouldn’t be eliminated on a German word so I decided to improve my skills with German,’’ he said. “So first I studied German language spelling patterns, and then I created a list of German words with help from my father, and then I had my mother quiz me on that list.”
Mahankali is the first boy to win since 2008, and he brought home $30,000 in cash and prizes as well as the coveted cup-shaped trophy. He didn’t blink when challenged with words like "glossophagine," "trichocercous," "thonnier" and "chalumeau." He was one of 11 young finalists in the event at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside Washington who made it to the end from a pool of 281 contestants.
Mahankali also overcame a new hurdle introduced this year by contest organizers. A computerized test including vocabulary questions was added to deepen the contestants’ knowledge of the English language.