Jiya Shetty, 14, has given up a lot of her time to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. This year was Jiya’s last chance at the spelling bee because spellers cannot compete after eighth grade.

“I really want to make it, but I know that it’s going to be hard because I know that is everyone’s goal,” Jiya said in an interview on Tuesday after the fourth round.

The Smithton Middle School eighth grader competed against 75 spellers in the quarterfinal rounds of the spelling bee Tuesday before misspelling a word in the sixth round. If she had spelled that word correctly, she would have competed again June 27 in the semifinals of the spelling bee.

Jiya completed the first three rounds in the preliminaries Saturday. Tuesday’s fourth round, Jiya’s first of the day, asked her to spell the word "selenology," meaning a branch of astronomy that deals with the moon.

“The first round of the day is hardest,” Jiya said. She said she felt relieved after spelling the word correctly.

Jiya was also nervous for the fifth round, in which spellers were asked a multiple choice question about a word’s definition. She correctly selected pig as “something described as porcine is related to” and advanced to the next round with 41 other spellers.

In the sixth round Jiya was asked to spell anticaries.

“A-N-T-I-C-A-R-E-S-E,” Jiya answered.

Jiya said she usually is not superstitious, but in order to bring her luck, every time she has competed Jiya tried to keep her outfit the same. For the quarterfinals, Jiya wore pink sparkly shoes, which she also wore during regionals on March 24.

“For every competition, I always try to wear something white for good vibes,” Jiya said.

Jiya started wearing white after she competed in a national math competition in fifth grade.

“Before that my mom was like, ‘OK, Jiya, wear this white headband for good vibes,’” Jiya said.

The headband was then nicknamed “good vibes.”

“In the end superstitions don’t really work,” Jiya said in an interview after the misspelling.

Jiya said she had given up a lot to devote herself to the competition. From deleting TikTok to turning off all notifications on her phone, she tried to limit her distractions. She studied from 7:30 a.m. to midnight in the days leading up to the quarterfinals. In addition, she missed one or two weeks of taekwondo classes.

“I really want to prepare as much as possible,” Jiya said.

Even though Jiya did not make it past the quarterfinals, she plans to stay connected to the spelling bee by coaching her sister, Aanya Shetty, next year. Aanya competed in the Columbia Missourian Regional Spelling Bee in March but lost to Jiya.

Semifinalists, 13 boys and 17 girls, from 17 states and the Bahamas will compete virtually on June 27. The semifinal rounds will be aired on ESPN.

  • Hannah is a summer reporter at the Columbia Missourian. Studying investigative journalism. Reach her at hrbk34@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom 882-5720.

  • Assistant city editor, summer 2021. Former education reporter, fall 2020. I am a graduate student studying magazine editing. Reach me at hgallant@mail.missouri.edu or on Twitter @GallantHannah.

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