Bayside Hills eighth-grader aces national spelling bee

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A Bayside Hills eighth-grader spelled his way to a national championship in his fourth and final crack at the competition, beating out 280 other spellers from across the country.

Arvind Mahankali, 13, clinched the title Thursday night with the German-derived Yiddish word, “knaidel,” which is a kind of dumpling typically eaten in Jewish homes during Passover. His hard-fought victory made him the spelling king after he placed third the last two years and ninth in 2010. His win also landed him $30,000.

In his final test, the 13-year-old from MS 74 Nathaniel Hawthorne in Oakland Gardens held out his hand and pretended to spell on it with the other as he worked through the word one letter at a time. When he was finished, masses of confetti shot through the air and he was handed the championship trophy, which he raised high into the air.

It was his last chance at the title since the bee only includes students between grades three and eight.

Mahankali said he had aspirations to become a physicist and would not waste any time basking in his glory come summertime.

“It means that I am retiring on a good note,” Mahankali said in a post-victory interview on ESPN sports network. “I shall spend the summer - maybe the entire day - studying physics.”

Last year, Mahankali fell victim to the word, “schwannoma,” another German word for a tumor of the peripheral nerve. His accomplishments were still widely celebrated with recognition coming from his school and the city’s elected officials last year.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 5:14 pm, May 31, 2013
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Reader feedback

doug h from Houston, TX says:
Arvind may be a good speller, but your copy folks certainly aren't.
May 31, 2013, 3:39 pm
Shafran from Bayside, NY says:
What is your problem with this great newspaper. To play devils advocate some might see you as an arse hole for making such a comment.
June 1, 2013, 11:33 am

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