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Phonetic combat: Students battle it out in districtwide bee
Twelve-year-old Prajwal Saokar, a seventh-grade student at Riverwatch Middle School, was the champion of Saturday’s Forsyth County Schools Spelling Bee. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

Beneath the glare of spotlights, perched uneasily in plastic chairs, more than two dozen local students psych themselves up, prepping for a mental challenge aimed at answering a very specific question: “Who among these is the best speller in Forsyth County Schools?”

Their faces contort in concentration and inner tension; their legs restlessly bounce. The soles of their shoes drum a frantic rhythm on the wooden, stage floor of West Forsyth High School’s auditorium.


Other participants in the spelling bee included:

Ruthvik Namireddy, Big Creek Elementary School 

Risha Kasala, Brookwood Elementary School

Harrison Hunt, Chattahoochee Elementary School

Sarah Hackett, Chestatee Elementary School

Louie Koulouvaris, Coal Mountain Elementary School

Malachi Nelson, Cumming Elementary School

Pravith Rathin, DeSana Middle School

Amrit Nallur, Johns Creek Elementary School

Kushi Kashyap, Kelly Mill Elementary School

Parth Bhasker, Lakeside Middle School

Isabelle Calcano, Liberty Middle School

Kira Westen, Little Mill Middle School

Mahira Rahim, Mashburn Elementary School

Samuel Giganti, Matt Elementary School

Aadhav Thaniga, Midway Elementary School

Ravin Kokkirrigadda, North Forsyth Middle School

Trinity Naces, Otwell Middle School

Akshitha Veeramachaneni, Piney Grove Middle School

Lucas Harper, Sawnee Elementary School

Srijyoth Ashok, Settles Bridge Elementary School

Aishwarya M. Meyyappan, Sharon Elementary School

Jayaditya Abbireddy, Shiloh Point Elementary School

Avery Brown, Silver City Elementary School

Yugesh Muralidhar, South Forsyth Middle School

Sudhiksha Sundrakanabady, Vickery Creek Elementary School

Zaydn Mudupully, Vickery Creek Elementary School


The 2018 Forsyth County Schools Spelling Bee started at 9 a.m. Saturday — pitting some of the district’s smartest kids against one another in phonetic combat. It wasn’t until roughly four hours later that a winner had been decided to represent Forsyth County in the upcoming Region 4 spelling bee Feb. 24. 

After nearly 40 rounds of spelling words from the English language and beyond, 12-year-old Prajwal Saokar, a seventh-grade student at Riverwatch Middle Schools was the champion.

First runner up was Rikhil Ranjit of Brandywine Elementary School; second runner up, Tenzin Michti Chaudhary, Whitlow Elementary School; third runner up, Sahith Rajesh, Haw Creek Elementary School; and alternate finalist, Tanushka Mithun, Daves Creek Elementary School.

First runner up
First runner up Rikhil Ranjit of Brandywine Elementary School spells a word during Saturday’s spelling bee. - photo by Bradley Wiseman
Many a difficult word was correctly spelled throughout the lengthy bee. Among them: financiers, treacherous, uncoquettish, grotesque, succulents and cupolas.

A few of the mental stumpers disqualified competitors. Some of the culprits: gazpacho, impasse, vigilante, piccolo, gulden and endocrinologist.

Saokar, who also took first place in the previous year’s districtwide spelling bee, won the bee by correctly spelling “tour de force.”

Moments after his victory, Saokar reacted with excitement.

“I was kind of just like ‘wow, I might be able to do this,’” Saokar said. “I kind of thought I might win because I won last year, [but] it was definitely tougher competition this year and more rounds … last year it was only 14 or 15 rounds.”

He said he studies at least one hour per day, adding that many of the words that he spelled during the Forsyth County Schools spelling bee Saturday he had never heard. Because he has made it a point to study language and the way letters are put together with regard to word origins, however, he was able to reason out the spellings of unknown words.

“I try to learn the language’s rules, so I try to use those rules if I don’t know a word,” Saokar said, adding that he’ll also often pretend to write out the word on his palm during competition, which helps him visualize how it’s spelled.

Susie Charles-Carr, one of three judges who oversaw the event, said the fact that the bee went so long “says a lot for our education here [in Forsyth County]. I don’t even know that I’d heard of half the words they spelled.”

Added Charles-Carr: “They all did really great.”

Event caller Victoria Tobin agreed.

“They’ve just been amazing,” Tobin said, during a break halfway through the bee. “We’ve got a wonderful group of spellers this year.”