OXON HILL, Md. – Snigdha Nandipati heard a few words she didn’t know during the National Spelling Bee, but never when she stepped to the microphone.
Calm and collected throughout, the 14-year-old Indian-American from San Diego spelled “guetapens,” a French-derived word that means ambush, snare or trap, to win the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. She beat out eight other finalists in the nerve-wracking, brain-busting competition.
A coin collector and Sherlock Holmes fan, Nandipati aspires to become a physician or neurosurgeon. She also plays violin and is fluent in Telugu, a language spoken in southeastern India.
Her brother and parents joined her onstage after the victory, along with her maternal grandparents, who travelled from Hyderabad, India, to watch her. At one point as she held the trophy aloft, her brother, Sujan, pushed the corners of her mouth apart to broaden her smile.
In the run-up to the bee, Nandipanti studied 6 to 10 hours a day on weekdays and 10-12 hours on weekends — a regimen that she’ll need to maintain to get through medical school, her father said.
“She says this is harder than being a neurosurgeon — maybe,” said her mother, Madhavi.
Nandipanti enjoys spending time with her friends…