OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Ananya Prassanna signed up for her first-ever spelling bee a few days before the event as a way to spend time with her friends. Without preparing, she came in second place.
"I just didn’t want to be left out so I just started doing it but I actually genuinely liked it after participating in it because you get to meet new friends, you get to learn different ways to do spelling and it’s kind of a fun way to interact," Prassanna said.
Now, a few years after taking it seriously, she's going to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, facing off against 233 other spellers.
"It took me about 1 day to realize I was even going so it was kind of exciting, happy and a bit of confusion," Prassanna said.
"Super excited, nervous, we’ve heard a lot about bee week and this is the first time we are going to experience it because of the pandemic, it makes it more special. This year is going to be very special," her parents, Sindhuja and Prassanna Rajgopal said.
They say spelling is now their life. At first, the Westbay Elementary 5th grader said she was unsure about a hobby that forces you to study outside of school, but now she loves it.
"I had to get kind of used to it but spelling teaches you discipline. You kind of have to deal with the fact you’re doing homework but you kind of start to enjoy it," she said. "I just think it’s fun to learn languages and new stuff and different types of learning."
And disciplined she is. Prassanna studies for about 4 hours on the weekends. Her parents say it's a lifestyle, with all of them getting involved.
"She’s an only child so obviously there’s no distractions for her. We want to give her time so it's all about investment of time, how much time we put in and I think once we knew there’s something she likes we push her, keep her motivated and I strongly believe that covid has helped a lot because we didn’t have anywhere to go and we pretty much at home. So we can focus all our energy into spelling and it kind of took off," Rajgopal said.
Spelling has allowed Ananya's interests to expand. She says she wants to be a microbiologist when she's older, an interest that sparked during the pandemic.
"I got more interested in bacteria and I started searching through all the different bacterias and even did some dictionary diving on different words that had to do with bacteria and science," she said.
Ananya is ready for the competition, continuing to study and using tricks like repeating the word before spelling it to help her out. While she's hopeful for a good outcome, she said she's most excited about meeting new friends with similar interests.
"I’m most looking forward to making new friends and being more social at the spelling bee because I've never really met so much friends in one week and I meet so many spellers when I'm spelling before the bee and I kind of talk to them make conversation and it’s a fun way to break the ice," Ananya said.
"She doesn’t find a lot of spellers in the same community here and she knows all of them online virtually, so once she goes there she’ll meet a lot of them with similar interests and that'll be more exciting and encourage the kids," Rajgopal said.
The competition begins on May 31 with preliminaries. The finals are on June 2. You can watch on ION and Bounce.