Last year, Vanya Shivashankar, 13, was cut from the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee without ever misspelling a word.
This year, it’s recompensatory time. She's made it to the finals.
“I’m just going to go in, have a lot of fun, see how it takes me and just enjoy the whole experience,” Vanya said.
This is her fifth and final chance to win the Bee. Vanya, who lives in Olathe, Kansas, was a favorite to win last year. She lost out due to a new vocabulary test requirement.
“Since last year I’ve just been reviewing more spelling, learning more words and roots. Focusing a lot on vocabulary,” Vanya said. I definitely want to try my best. I’m really excited."
Vanya has her whole family behind her. Her father acts as a spelling coach and her mother drills with quizzes and moral support. Both are software engineers. Her older sister Kavya won the Bee in 2009.
“My family is super supportive of me. They help me so much with everything,” Vanya said.
Vanya studied as much as possible on the weekdays, but had a tight schedule with school and other activities. She plays piano and performs in theatre.
In February, Vanya appeared on the Lifetime show “Child Genius,” in which she competed against 19 other gifted teenagers for $100,000 in college funds.
Vanya plans to put that money to good use. Next year, Vanya is entering a distinguished scholars program at Olathe North High School, the "21st Century High School Program” that focuses on a specific topic.
She’s considering science to prepare her a career in medicine.
“Probably cardiac surgery,” she said. “I’m fascinated by the heart. I still have a lot of time to think about it.”
The Bee finals begin at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Follow all the Bee action on Twitter at @ScrippsBee.