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‘Surreal’: Colorado teen Aditi Muthukumar advances to Scripps National Spelling Bee finals

A 13-year-old from Westminster is representing Colorado on the big stage Thursday night.
Posted at 11:45 PM, May 29, 2024

A 13-year-old from Westminster is representing Colorado on the big stage Thursday night. Aditi Muthukumar on Wednesday advanced to the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals, along with seven other elite spellers who will compete for the Scripps Cup.

She correctly spelled “myrmecoxene” – a word for an insect living in the nest of another insect and that is fed and guarded for its secretions which are used as food, according to Merriam Webster – to earn her spot in the finals.

It’s a bit of redemption for Muthukumar, who competed in last year’s bee but misspelled a word in the quarterfinals.

“Just really shell shocked,” she said of the feeling of advancing to the finals. “I was not expecting to be here. And honestly, I'm just really grateful that I've made it this far [...] Just being here was really surreal.”

Hear Aditi react to her spelling bee finals berth in the video player below:

‘Surreal’: Colorado teen Aditi Muthukumar dishes on advancing to spelling bee finals

Muthukumar, who is in eighth grade at Hulstrom K-8 in Northglenn, said last year was her “first year spelling seriously” and this year was able to give herself more time to review words ahead of this year’s bee.

“I had more of a trajectory,” she said. “I knew where I was going with some of my study resources.”

In addition to myrmecoxene, Aditi on Wednesday spelled “Torquemada,” which stems from the name of a 15th-century Spanish inquisitor, and “taha,” a South African weaverbird. She also defined “bellicosity,” a word for aggressiveness, and “welter,” which means to writhe and toss.

She will compete for the trophy and a $50,00 cash prize in Thursday’s final, which you can watch at 6 p.m. Mountain Time on Ion.

Until then, Aditi said she’ll be taking some time to relax.

“If I do say so myself, I've been working pretty hard this past year, especially these past few months,” she said. “So I guess it's nice to just give myself some time to think and rest.”

The other Coloradan in this year’s bee, 11-year-old Cooper Edwards from the Boulder Valley School District, misspelled a word during Tuesday’s third round. Edwards and Muthukumar were among 245 contestants in the bee.

Reporting from Elizabeth Hernandez with our media partners at The Denver Post contributed to this article.