McKinney Student Wins 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee!

Karthik Nemmani of McKinney. Photo courtesy of CNN

We get emails from people all the time, asking where the best place to live in North Texas is if you seek a high quality public school.

Tonight, the answer would be McKinney. 

Karthik Nemmani of McKinney is the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion. He won Thursday night, by spelling the word “koinonia” . Media outlets said he survived “arguably the most intense competition in the bee’s 93-year history.”

Karthik is 14 and he beat a record-shattering 515 contestants at the national spelling bee, plus six other Texans. Five of the champion spellers were from the DFW area. Even more, the number of contestants nearly doubled (not exactly, 515 compared to 291 but this is a spelling bee story, not math) after bee organizers expanded eligibility this year.

Along the way, he had to outlast a field of 16 finalists who vanquished words such as “Praxitelean,” “ispaghul” and “telyn” — sometimes without batting an eyelash — in a breathtaking show of spelling skill broadcast live on ESPN.

But Nemmani, who was competing at his first national bee, displayed the poise of a veteran, seeming to sail through his words: “condottiere” (knight or roving soldier available for hire), “miarolitic” (of igneous rock), “cendre” (a moderate blue), “ankyloglossia” (limited normal movement of the tongue), “grognard,” “passus,” “shamir” (tiny worm capable of splitting the hardest stone) and “jagüey” (an East Indian tree).

Dear me, I can even screw up spell-check.

Often, Nemmani spelled with his arms clasped behind his back, barely betraying emotion. When it was down to two contestants — him and 12-year-old Naysa Modi, also from the Dallas area — Nemmani remained calm as Modi misspelled “Bewusstseinslage.”

Nemmani then knocked out “haecceitas” (the status of being an individual) before receiving the word that would clinch his win: “koinonia,” a word with Greek roots meaning a spiritual communion.

He nailed that one, too.

Only as confetti rained down on the stage did Nemmani break out into a broad smile.

“I’m just really happy,” he said moments after his victory. “This has just been a dream come true.”

Nemmani is the 14th champion of South Asian descent who has aced the bee in 11 consecutive years.

And he almost didn’t make it: Karthik has never won a regional or state bee. He even lost to Naysa Modi, who is from Frisco, earlier this year. But he qualified for the nationals under the bee’s expanded eligibility program, “RSVBee,” which allowed kids who had not won a regional bee a chance to apply if they had won previous spelling bees. Which shows how very determined this young man was.

Now let’s go find a nice McKinney house for koinonia —– hummmmmm —  hire a few condottieres to delight the grognards at our next StaffParty, at a home sitting on miarolitic, with eaves painted cendre to keep mud wasps at bay, a jaguey in the foyer in a beautiful pot, with an agent who hopefully suffers not from ankyloglossia (or we are in trouble).

Hopefully no shamirs hanging under the foundation. Ever.