Co-champions emerge from Houston to compete at national bee for second time

The 2014 Houston Public Media Spelling Bee co-champions win for the second year in a row. (from L to R) Shobha Dasari from Pearland Junior High School West and Syamantak Payra from Westbrook Intermediate School will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Photo credit: Craig Hartley)
March 29, 2014 9:29:43 PM PDT
After competing in 12 rounds with fifty-five total spellers from 42 Texas counties, co-champions, Shobha Dasari, a seventh grader at Pearland Junior High School West in Pearland ISD and Syamantak Payra an eighth grader at Westbrook Intermediate School in Clear Creek ISD, were awarded co-champion titles from the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee, for the second year in a row.

The two spellers will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 27-29, 2014 in National Harbor, Md., with an all-expenses-paid trip to "Bee Week."

Both spellers went head-to-head spelling words such as clogwyn, dhauri and dauw in the competition that went on for over four hours in the Houston bee, the nation's third largest local spelling bee. The bee was broadcast live on Houston Public Media's TV 8 and streamed live online.

"I'm really excited to go back to nationals," said Dasari. "I plan to study a lot and get as much training as I can."

This is Dasari's fourth year at the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee and in 2013 she tied for 19th place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"I feel great to go back to nationals because I get to compete again and see people I met there last year," said Payra.

This is Payra's fourth year at the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee and in 2013 he tied for seventh place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Dasari will be speller No. 238 at the national bee and Payra, No. 239. They will join approximately 275 contestant spellers from across the country at the 87th national bee, aiming for the victory and prizes worth more than $30,000. The bee will broadcast live nationally on ESPN during "Bee Week."

Participating spellers in the 2014 Houston Public Media Spelling Bee included 34 girls and 21 boys ranging in age from 8 to14 and in grades third through eighth, representing 1,060 schools in Texas.

As part of the organization's commitment to education, Houston Public Media conducts, hosts and broadcasts this major spelling bee competition annually. Houston Public Media's TV 8 is the first public broadcast television station in the nation to conduct and broadcast a Scripps-affiliated local spelling bee and this marks the sixth year that they have staged this prestigious academic competition.

"We are proud to conduct and televise this highly competitive spelling bee," said Lisa Trapani Shumate, executive director and general manager of Houston Public Media. "This academic competition enriches the lives of every student who participates, not only with improved speaking and vocabulary skills, but also in developing poise and sportsmanship."

A special guest commentator for this year's bee was Nupur Lala, the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion and star of "Spellbound," an Oscar-nominated documentary that followed eight competitors in the national spelling bee.

For more information on the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee, visit www.houstonpublicmedia.org/spellingbee. For photos of the event, visit www.flickr.com/photos/houstonpubmedia.

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