The title of Wake County Spelling Bee champion stayed in the family on Saturday, but it changed hands from Rohan Sachdev to his younger brother, Rahul Sachdev.
Both brothers have been competing against each other in spelling contests for five years, but Saturday was the first time that Rahul topped Rohan. Rahul’s victory will send him to the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C., in May, but knocking out his brother made the victory bittersweet for the 11-year-old.
“I feel really good, but I also feel really sad,” Rahul, a fifth-grader representing the Cary Homeschoolers group, said in an interview.
But both Rohan, 12, a seventh-grader at Carnage Middle School in Raleigh, and his mother, Shubha, told Rahul that he should celebrate the victory. Rohan, who was one of 49 semifinalists in last year’s national competition, was eliminated in the final round on Saturday.
“Don’t feel bad for your brother,” Shubha Sachdev told Rahul.
Until this year, both brothers had competed in the same school or homeschool group so only one could advance to the county event. But this year, Rahul got more of an opportunity because Rohan left homeschooling to take the advanced courses at Carnage Middle.
Other area students who’ve qualified for the nationally telecast competition are Kellan All, a seventh-grader at Harnett Central Middle School in Angier, and Abigail Pittman, an eighth-grader at Southside Christian School in Clayton. On March 19, Duke University will hold the regional spelling bee for students from Durham and Orange counties.
The Wake County Spelling Bee is run by PAGE of Wake County, a group that advocates for academically gifted children. The News & Observer will pay for Rahul and his family to travel to the Scripps National Bee.
On Saturday, 93 students from the Wake school system, charter schools, private schools and home schools qualified for the competition at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel in downtown Raleigh.
The field was cut to 24 spellers by the afternoon. Words such as analgesic, parricide and ochlocracy reduced the list of finalists even further.
By the ninth elimination round, only five finalists remained. The first three missed their words before Rahul correctly spelled “niello,” which means any of several metallic alloys consisting of silver, copper and lead with a deep black coloring. Rahul admits he guessed on the spelling.
Then Rohan was asked to spell “epulis,” a tumor or tumorous growth of the gum. Rohan incorrectly spelled it “epulus.”
Rohan’s parents challenged his elimination, arguing the pronouncer didn’t say the word correctly. But the challenge was denied, paving the way for Rahul to successfully spell the championship word, “ohm,” which is the standard unit of electrical resistance.
Rahul said he knows he’ll have to study hard to do at least as well as his brother did at last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“Since I’ve seen how much you have to prepare to be there and do good over there, I think I’ll be well prepared to do good,” Rahul said.