2017 Dallas Regional Spelling Bee Winner
When he was a second-grader quizzing classmates on the bus, words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and humuhumunukunukuapua’a were child’s play for Sohum Sukhatankar.
So it’s no wonder that a 10-letter word posed no problem Saturday for the 10-year-old winner of this year’s Golden Chick Regional Spelling Bee.
The fifth-grader from Allen remained calm and collected as his fellow wordsmiths were whittled down at the WFAA-TV studio in downtown Dallas. One by one, the final four were knocked off by “erbium,” “glissade,” “enthetic” and “parterre,” and he stood alone in the championship round.
Sohum had known every word thrown at him so far, and when he heard “decamerous” — which means consisting of 10 parts or divisions — he quickly spurted the letters out.
While other spellers asked for their words’ country of origin and definition and for each to be used in a sentence, that wasn’t part of Sohum’s routine.
“I was actually really surprised I knew all of the words I got,” Sohum said. “The key to doing well is study and review your mistakes.”
After losing at last year’s Collin County spelling bee, Sohum was determined to put in more effort and practiced for hours day and night with his father, Mandar.
“They had a talk and his dad said, ‘You’re not going to go anywhere if you don’t put in 100 percent,'” said Sohum’s mother, Gargi. “He [Sohum] understood hard work is important. Just because you’re intelligent it doesn’t come easily.”
The judge for the spelling bee, Quitman Stephens, knows that all too well.
Stephens, a back-to-back winner of the regional spelling bee in 1984-85, was reminded of the word he misspelled in the 1983 bee when Swayam Rath of Denton County nailed “euthanasia” and hopped off the stage.
“The spelling bee is a metaphor for success at any endeavor or any enterprise,” Stephens said. “You spend a lot of time working on your own in an unglamourous setting for that one moment when you step on stage and perform like a champion.”
Preparing Sohum for that moment was his mother, a yoga teacher and occupational therapist. She helped her son learn the power of self-affirmation and positive thinking, something she could see culminate when he confidently walked to the microphone each round.
Sohum borrows a dozen books from the library each week and is teaching himself Spanish. Other than books and spelling, he practices origami, coding and singing traditional Indian songs.
His parents, originally from India, say they are proud to see his studying pay off, but winning the bee isn’t the most important part of being an expert speller.
“He’s able to communicate much better in different situations, and it will be easier for him to read different books and understand things better when he has a wider vocabulary,” Gargi said. “It’s more than the winning aspect of it.”
By winning the regional bee, Sohum moves on to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington D.C.