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South Jordan teen heads back to spelling bee after unprecedented journey to 5th place finish in 2022

Posted at 6:48 AM, May 30, 2023

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Surya Kapu is no stranger to performing under pressure at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

As a 7th-grade grade student in 2022, Kapu advanced to the final round of the event. His path there was unprecedented.

“We realized there was a root in the origin that I asked for, but they didn’t give the correct response to it,” Kapu said.

The student from Draper’s American Preparatory Academy appealed to the event’s judges who agreed and gave him another chance to spell a word.

Under the bright lights Kapu spelled the word correctly and became one of 13 teens advancing to the event’s final session.

“I was on stage, everyone was looking at me,” he said. “It was my second chance and I didn't want to screw it up.”

Viewers of the spelling bee will notice competitors asking questions about the word they are given to spell.

Kapu appealed because the information received after asking those questions is critical to how he goes on to spell a word.

Knowing the language of origin is one of the most important clues he needs to be accurate.

“It's probably the most helpful because it completely changes the word,” he said.

Kapu eventually tied for 5th place in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

After nearly becoming the first student from Utah to win the event, he is going back this year with the goal of advancing to the final round.

“It's crazy to think that this year I could win one for Utah,” Kapu said. “Just try my best and go as far as possible, but it would be nice to get back to the finals.”

Preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee begin Tuesday, May 30. The final round is scheduled for the evening of June 1.