A Wake County middle school student will compete Thursday on prime-time television to be named the best speller in the nation.
Rohan Sachdev, 14, an eighth-grade student at Carnage Middle School in Raleigh, was among 15 spellers who survived four grueling rounds of competition Thursday in the 90th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Rohan clinched his spot on Thursday night’s broadcast on ESPN, which starts at 8:30 p.m., by successfully spelling “yacata,” which means a mound of earth in Mexico.
Rohan is the lone North Carolinian left in the competition. Helena Thompson, 12, a seventh-grade student at Highland Middle School in Sanford and Akshra Paimagam, 14, an eighth-grade student at Randolph Middle School in Charlotte, were both eliminated Thursday.
This is the farthest Rohan has gone in the national competition. He tied for 39th place in 2015.
Last year, Rohan’s younger brother Rahul competed in the national competition after beating him in the Wake County bee.
Rohan wore a blue cotton polo and khaki shorts on stage Wednesday, paired with neon-pink tennis shoes and black, crew-length socks pulled up to mid-calf like his favorite professional tennis player, Roger Federer. Rohan, who lives in Cary, is the No. 1 ranked tennis player in his age group in North Carolina.
“I wanted to wear tennis clothes,” he reportedly said, but his mom vetoed that.
About 11 million students from the United States, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Department of Defense Schools in Europe participate in local spelling bees, but only the top 291 spellers advanced to this week’s national competition.
Rohan advanced to the final group of 40 spellers after competing in the preliminary rounds Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, 25 of the 40 spellers were eliminated during four rounds aired on ESPN2.
The bee, being held at a convention center outside Washington D.C., has ended in a tie the last three years. To avoid that happening again, a written tiebreaker test will be used this year in an attempt to identify a single champion.
The grand prize includes $40,000 cash and a trophy.
The Associated Press contributed.