V.I. speller Manav Thadani just misses semifinals


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ST. THOMAS - The top speller from the Virgin Islands, Manav Thadani, just missed advancing to the semifinals Wednesday in the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Antilles School student spelled both his words correctly in Round 2 and Round 3, but his vocabulary test score was not quite high enough to get him into the semifinals.

Out of 222 students who spelled both their words in the oral rounds, only 46 advanced to the finals. Manav scored in 47th place.

"So, 176 did not move on, but had not misspelled, and Manav was one of them," Manav's spelling coach Sonya Swan said.

"I feel pretty good, I was actually kind of close to the semifinals, so that's good," Manav told The Daily News on Wednesday evening.

His first word was misogynist, which means one who hates women. The second word was oogenesis, the formation and maturation of an egg.

"I knew the first one and I kind of knew the second one, I just thought it out," Manav said.

The 13-year-old's mother, Asha Thadani, said Manav woke up Wednesday morning with a fever, but competed anyway.

He also took the time to do press, and was interviewed by a Caribbean news outlet along with the competitors from Jamaica, Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

His mom said she was worried about him, but proud that he got up there and spelled his words.

"He did good and I'm happy for that," she said.

He took the computerized vocabulary test - the preliminary round - on Tuesday.

The vocabulary test was instituted last year, which was the first time Manav made it to the national bee. This time around, he knew a little more what to expect, and did much better.

For the written test, the competitor must spell 12 words and answer 12 vocabulary questions. That test is considered Round 1.

Each speller also gets two bonus vocabulary questions, one for Round 2 and one for Round 3. All of that, along with the oral spelling bee, add up to a score that is used to determine who advances to the semifinals.

Manav got the first bonus vocab question correct: "What is an odori?"

The answer is a lively dance with rapid footwork.

He missed the second bonus question, however. That question was: "Something described as Caledonian is related to?"

The answer is the period after the Jurassic period.

Manav plans to stay in Washington to rest up and continue to participate in spelling bee activities. He was chosen to sit on the stage to watch the live televised final competition.

The final round airs at 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN.

Asha Thadani said her son's final exams at school start Monday, and he will have to spend some time studying as well.

Swan said Manav is already thinking about next year.

"He's already volunteered to help coach the next representatives from Antilles for next year," Swan said. "And that's typical of him, to want to help someone else."

The Daily News has been the sponsor of the local spelling bee since 1985. The Daily News' sponsorship includes funds for the Territorial Bee and the champion and coach's travel and hotel costs for the National Bee.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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