Spelling Bee 2024: Bruhat Soma, 12-year-old Indian-American, lifts trophy in a diaspora hat-trick

Spelling Bee 2024 winner Indian-American student Bruhat Soma
Spelling Bee 2024 winner Indian-American student Bruhat Soma with his trophy. Photo courtesy: X/@ScrippsBee

Bruhat Soma, a 12-year-old Indian-American seventh-grade student from Florida, has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee 2024. He spelt 29 words correctly in the tiebreaker, maintaining the dominance of Indian-American children in the prestigious competition.

Bruhat emerged victorious in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30, earning more than USD 50,000 in cash and other prizes.

Indian-American students Dev Shah and Harini Logan had won the Spelling Bee in 2023 and 2022, respectively. That makes it a hat-trick at the competition for the Indian diaspora in the United States of America.

This year’s contest came down to a tiebreaker in which Bruhat spelt 29 words correctly in 90 seconds, beating Faizan Zaki, who managed to correctly spell 20 words in the lightning round.

His championship word was “abseil”, which is defined as “descent in mountaineering by means of a rope looped over a projection above.”

Organisers called for a spell-off to determine a winner, following 14 rounds over three days at the national championships.

Bruhat went first in the tiebreaker, and after he got through 30 words, it appeared he would be impossible to beat. Faizan’s pace was more uneven at the outset. He attempted 25 words but flubbed four of them.

Spelling Bee 2024 winner Indian-American student Bruhat Soma
Spelling Bee 2024 winner Indian-American student Bruhat Soma has also memorised 80 per cent of the Bhagavad Gita, said his parents. Photo courtesy: X/@HinduAmericans

“Bruhat Soma rules the word! The Champion of the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee! The boy with the unbelievable memory doesn’t miss a word all week and takes home the Scripps Cup!” said the organisers.

“Bruhat Soma correctly spelt 29 out of 30 words attempted to earn the coveted champion title and beat the standing spell-off record set by Harini Logan in 2022. Logan spelt 22 out of 26 words correctly during the competition’s first-ever spell-off,” said the organisers.

“As the competition progressed, it was clear that Faizan and Bruhat — our final two spellers — showed up tonight ready to take down the dictionary,” said Corrie Loeffler, Executive Director of the Bee. “Together, they were a powerful match. Bee officials activated the spell-off in the competition’s closing minutes, giving these stellar spellers an opportunity to show even more of what they can do.”

The two final spellers each had 90 seconds to spell as many words as they could from a predetermined list of words while the other speller was sequestered.

Bruhat spelt every word thrown his way correctly over the 90-second duration: brouette, adelantado, hyporcheme, bisellium, mycteric, endecha, sericin, nyctalopia, ascham, wenzel, cebell, heautophany, kwazoku, panetiere, sagaie, nachschlage, exorhason, giclee, ashwagandha, puszta, asarotum, scintillante, myrabalanus, sciniph, voussoir, caizinha, ramoneur, aposiopesis and abseil.

The 31th word was posology, but time was called before he could finish spelling it. He only spelt porphyrio incorrectly.

While competing, his forehead was marked with a vermilion tika, a Hindu symbol of power and purity. His parents said that Bruhat had memorised about 80 per cent of the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita.

“My heart was pumping so fast when I realised I won,” Bruhat said. “I had a good feeling I would win because I did pretty good, but yeah, you never know. I still couldn’t absorb the moment yet.”

Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E W Scripps Company, presented Bruhat with the championship trophy. “At just 12 years old, Bruhat impressed with his display of knowledge and composure,” said Symson.

Bruhat’s father Srinivas Soma is originally from Nalgonda in Telangana, southern India. This was the boy’s third time participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He tied for 74th in 2023 and tied for 163rd in 2022.

The 2024 winner was coached by 16-year-old former speller Sam Evans. He had won the Words of Wisdom Bee and SpellPundit Bee before arriving in the Maryland suburb of Washington DC for the prestigious Spelling Bee competition.

Prize money for the other competitors is as follows:

  • Runner-up Faizan Zaki of Allen, Texas, received USD 25,000.
  • Shrey Parikh of Rancho Cucamonga, California, tied for third place in the competition, received USD 12,500.
  • Ananya Prassanna of Apex, North Carolina, tied for third place in the competition, received USD 12,500.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest-running educational programme, having been launched in 1925. It is as much a high-profile, high-pressure endurance test as a nerd spelling match, and spellers spend months preparing for it.

The Bee was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. There were eight co-champions in 2019, seven of whom were Indian-Americans. Twenty-nine Indian-Americans have emerged as champions in the competition since 1999.