Gwinnett student wins Georgia Spelling Bee; runner-up from Cobb 

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Gwinnett student wins Georgia Spelling Bee; runner-up from Cobb 

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Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC
The winner of the State Spelling Bee, Abhiram Kapaganty, stands and holds his trophy up alongside Dr. Sid Chapman, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 17, 2017. 

After a hard-fought and suspenseful contest that ran for hours, an elementary student from Gwinnett is going to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

Burnette Elementary’s Abhiram Kapaganty beat out 19 other Georgia students in the 56th annual Georgia Spelling Bee on Friday.

The 11-year-old persisted through 23 rounds, correctly spelling “schipperke” (a breed of dog) and then “wedel” (to ski in the wedeln style) to claim the title. He also gets $1,000 and paid expenses to the national bee. 

“I feel really good, I’m really excited that I won,” Abhiram said after the event at Georgia State University.

To help the fifth grader prepare, his parents quizzed him for up to five hours a day for weeks. 

“He was basically breathing spelling, eating spelling,” his mother, Voni, said, smiling. 

Abhiram, an avid reader and Harry Potter fan who also competes in geography bees, said he will take the weekend to relax. 

March 17, 2017, Atlanta, Georgia -Jahnvi Bhagat (left), from Daniell Middle School in Cobb County, stands and begins to spell a word in one of the final rounds of competition in the State Spelling Bee in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 17, 2017. Bhagat would go on to place second overall as the alternate to Abhiram Kapaganty (right). (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM) Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC

After the trophies were presented, runner-up Jahnvi Bhagat found Abhiram so she could shake his hand. Jahnvi, who is in the 8th grade at Cobb County’s Daniell Middle, will be the winner’s alternate for the national bee. The event is May 28 through June 3.

The annual state bee is sponsored by the Georgia Association of Educators. The students came from across the state. 

Richard McIntyre, GAE’s spelling bee committee chairman, has been involved for decades and was surprised by the 23-round competition. He said he couldn’t remember a state bee that went over 15 rounds. 

Only a couple contestants had been eliminated by the fifth round, so McIntyre said the words would get tougher.

By the 11th round, it was down to four. 

Things got interesting in the 17th round, when all three remaining contestants missed a word. They were all brought back on stage.

But eventually, it was down to Abhiram and Jahnvi.

The word that finally took the 13-year-old Jahnvi down? "Vorlage," which is a type of skiing position.

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