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Taylorsville Journal

South Jordan resident ties for third at the national spelling bee

Jun 08, 2023 05:07PM ● By Peri Kinder

Surya Kapu will never forget how to spell “kelep.” The South Jordan 14-year-old made it to the final rounds of the 95th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. on June 1 before misspelling “kelep,” a carnivorous ant, found in Central and South America.

Surya tied for third in the competition, his best showing of the three years he’s represented Utah at the national bee. In 2019, he tied for 370th place and in 2022 he tied for fifth. He missed the 2020 national event after it was canceled due to COVID-19. 

Although he didn’t win, Surya is pleased with his performance and the $12,500 he won in prize money, which he plans to use for college.

“My main goal this year was to get back into the finals and that happened. I’m really happy with getting third. It was a great week,” he said. “It was really fun. I met a bunch of people.”

Surya just completed eighth grade at American Preparatory Academy in Draper and is no longer eligible to compete in the national competition which is open to spellers from age 9 to 14. 

This year, 231 spellers earned a place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, the Bahamas, Ghana and Department of Defense Schools in Europe. The event took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center May 30-June 1. 

Surya was one of only two 2022 finalists that advanced to the 2023 national competition. He tied for third place with Shradha Rachamreddy who misspelled “orle” in the same round as Surya. Dev Shah, 14, from Florida, was named the 2023 national champ after spelling “psammophile.”

“I met some people in 2019 [at the national bee] and we’ve stayed in touch. Seeing them in person was really fun,” he said.

Surya earned a spot in the national bee after winning the regional spelling bee for the fourth time. The City Journals sponsored the regional bee that had nearly 170 students participating from 104 Utah schools. The City Journals paid for Surya, his parents and his sister to travel to Washington, D.C. for the national event. 

“I just wanted to say thank you to The City Journals for sponsoring me,” he said. “I really appreciate it.”

Surya said he spends up to two hours every day studying spelling words, grammar and definitions. He also enjoys playing chess, basketball, the saxophone and he earned a black belt in tae kwon do. He had some words of advice for any student thinking about participating in local, regional or national spelling bees. 

“Keep learning your words and make sure you’re enjoying it,” Surya said. “Try your best.”

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