A fifth-grader from Little River Elementary School stood alone on stage at Stone Bridge High School Monday night, having out spelled 91 other Loudoun County students.
Shreya Juhi Labh spelled three words in a row correctly to become the county’s top speller, March 19. Shreya’s win marked the first time a fifth-grader took home the title since home-schooled student Cari Peacock won in 2002.
Shreya had never heard any of her final words before spelling the three words: amanuensis, cuneiform and nascency, that made her a champion. She had a strategy, though.
“I just guessed,” she said smiling shyly. “I didn’t think I had spelled [nascency] right.”
Kicking off with the word cosmos, the 25th annual regional spelling bee was filled with foreign words and multi-syllable words that even tripped up some of the adults in the audience.
“We are out there watching and listening and spelling in our own minds,” Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick said, “and as [people] learn, getting it wrong when they get it right”
MONDAY NIGHT’S runner up, Michelle Delgado, an eighth-grader at Harmony Intermediate, was not even supposed to be at the spelling bee.
“She is the alternate from Harmony Intermediate,” Carolyn D. Perry, Loudoun County Public Schools supervisor for English and language arts, said. “The winner from Harmon was unable to be with us tonight.”
Michelle learned early Monday morning that the winner from her school was sick and she would take her place at the spelling bee.
“I had studied for our school spelling bee,” she said, “but I spent all day studying for tonight. My teachers were really understanding.”
SHREYA, WHO practiced for the spelling bee simply by reading through the study book given to her by the county, said being bilingual helps her with her spelling.
“It helps because I know a lot about the Hindi language” she said. “A lot of English words come from Hindi.”
Shreya and her family speak Hindi at home, and her father, Sudhir Ladh, said she learned English outside of the home. He admitted his daughter did not get much help from him in preparing for the spelling bee.
“She is well-exposed to the language,” he said.
Sudhir Ladh, who held up a pink good luck sign signed by Shreya’s friends and family throughout the bee, said he was very proud of her win, but not completely surprised.
“We had a suspicion she might win because she reads a lot,” he said. “So a lot of these words were familiar to her. I am very proud.”
Shreya will represent Loudoun County in the 80th annual Scripps Howard Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 30 and 31.