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Utah teen places fifth in National Spelling Bee

Published May 31, 2013 7:19 am

Competition • Bountiful's Vismaya Kharkar makes it to the top level of worldwide contest.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Oxon Hill, Md. • Spelling words you've probably never heard, Utah's Vismaya Kharkar made it to the final five of National Spelling Bee on Thursday, coming only a single wrong letter away from staying in contest that began with 11 million fellow contestants worldwide.

Kharkar, on her third time to the Scripps bee, accurately tackled dozens of words before tripping up on paryphodrome by tossing in an "i" instead of the accurate "y."

"No," she said, dreading the impending bell chiming her out of the bee.

But the 14-year-old Bountiful resident who attends the Challenger School in Salt Lake City beamed as she sauntered off stage to a hug from her mom. She'd never heard her ultimately eliminating word before and said she guessed, knowing it could go either way.

"I feel happy for how I did," she told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I feel really proud; some of those words were pretty ridiculous. Of course, I'm disappointed with missing a word. No one ever wants to miss a word. But I think I'll take away a lot from it."

Earlier Thursday, she flew through the words tossed her way.

Lebensraum? Easy. Sciomancy? Check. Epaxial? Schadenfreude? Temenous? Nailed 'em.

By Round 11, there were only five spellers left.

Kharkar, who had made a habit of high-fiving her competitors after each correct word she spelled, knew the roots of her fateful word. She repeated it three times.

Her mother, Pallavi Ranade-Kharkar, covered her mouth. Her dad, Sandeep, closed his eyes. Sister, Anoushka, glanced down.

After the bell, though, there were no tears.

The Utah speller — aged out of returning to next year's contest — had made words a part of her life since coming in third at a kindergarten spelling match. She told her mom she wasn't going to lose again.

"Obviously she was going for the top prize," Ranade-Kharkar said. "That didn't happen but I hope for her to have a big future."

Vismaya Kharkar had barely missed out on making the last round in 2012. This time, she was giddy and ready.

Faced with a word meaning a place devoid of souls, she told the host it was a noun.

"Yes," he replied.

"Is there anything else I haven't asked for yet?" she asked, drawing laughter from the crowd.

A-B-A-D-D-O-N. Correct.

Sandeep Kharkar gave her a pep talk half-way through the show broadcast live on ESPN. When it was over — New York's Arvind Mahankali won — Vismaya was still smiling.

"I'm very tired right now," she said. "I'm very exhausted."

Kharkar's sponsor was The Valley Journals.

Two other Utahns competed in the national contest: Hannah Wentz Faulconer of Lindon and Jared Ward of Price. Both were eliminated from the bee Wednesday.

tburr@sltrib.com