9-year-old wins Prince William Co. spelling bee with ‘gallivat’

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

“Gallivat” is not a word you hear everyday. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an East Indian ship propelled by sails and oars and often armed and used by pirates.”

But it was just one of the thousands of words Siya Sampath was prepared to spell at the 45th Prince William Regional Spelling Bee on Tuesday night. And she spelled that one and 15 others correctly to top 40 other spellers from around the county to win the bee.

Siya Sampath, 9, of Haymarket celebrates with her mother and sister after winning the 45th annual Prince William Regional Spelling Bee on March 21 at Gar-Field High School. (InsideNoVa/Tavan Smith)

At just nine-years-old and representing J.W. Alvey Elementary School in Haymarket, Sampath was the third youngest speller competing in this year’s bee, her second regional spelling bee. She competed last year as a third-grader, when Ronald Reagan Middle School seventh-grader Peyton DeMichele took home the top prize after spelling 11 correct words.

“I studied all the words three times each at least,” Sampath said after the event. “There were only two I didn’t know.”

While she admitted to being nervous for a few words, she was still confident in the hours of studying she had put in with her mom.

“I would quiz myself on all the words and afterwards my mom would quiz me on the words I got wrong,” she said.

Sampath’s knack for spelling was challenged by the 40 other talented spellers, all winners of bees at their elementary, intermediate or middle schools. Contestants spelled words like “lithophone” (a class of percussion instruments), “baptismal,” “aberration” (the act of wandering away), “kookaburra” (a large Australasian kingfisher), “fervorous,” “idiosyncratic” and “coriander” with ease.

Aadya Pokarel of Pennington School finished in fifth place after being eliminated in the 10th round. Two spellers tied for third place after being eliminated in the 11th round: seventh-grader Peter Layton from Woodbridge Middle School and sixth-grader Vincent Chu from George Hampton Middle School.

Dhanvika Ragi, 11, a sixth-grader at Gainesville Middle School, spells a word in the early rounds of the Prince William Regional Spelling Bee. Ragi was the runner-up in the event. (Courtesy Tavan Smith)

That left Sampath facing off against Dhanvika Ragi, 11, a sixth-grader at Gainesville Middle School, for the championship. The two successfully spelled words like “zeitgeist” (the spirit of the time), “dactylic” (of or consisting of a metrical foot of three syllables), “a posteriori” (what cannot be known except from experiences) and “graticule” (a network of lines of latitude and longitude).

But in the 15th round, Ragi was stumped by “gypsophila,” a plant of a large genus of Old World herbs having small delicate paniculate flowers and five-clawed petals. Sampath then correctly spelled “castellated” (built or formed like a large fortified building) and the championship word of “gallivat” to secure first place.

Sampath is the youngest winner of the Prince William bee since 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison won in 2012. The bee is open to students through the eighth grade.

The bee, held at Gar-Field High School, was presented by InsideNoVa and the Bel Air Woman’s Club. The Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism sponsored the event.

“Regardless of the outcome for you this evening, each one of you is a champion,” Karen Attreed, president of the woman’s club, said at the start of the bee. “You are representing your respective schools. All of us, teachers, parents, mentors and your peers are very proud of you.”

Sampath will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland from May 28-June 2, which will be aired on ION and Bounce television networks. She plans to use her same studying techniques to prepare for the competition this spring, where she will spell against 200 other regional champions from across the country.

“I may need a little more work,” she said. “There’s over 100,000 words in the dictionary.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.


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