There are many words that can be used to describe the intelligence of W.T. Clarke Middle School’s Naman Shakrani and Woodland Middle School’s Abel Ninan. And whatever word you choose, they’ll know how to spell it.
The middle schools recently crowned the two students their spelling bee champions following their respective schoolwide competitions, and they will represent the East Meadow School District in the Long Island regional competition at Hofstra University on Sunday.
Shakrani and Ninan, both honor students, will be two of 103 fourth- through eighth-graders from schools across Nassau and Suffolk counties who will compete in the regional finals. The winner will represent the region at the National Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 26-June 1.
Both students survived several rounds of competitions to earn their respective top spots, outspelling dozens of classmates. It was the first schoolwide victory for Abel, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, but for Naman, who is also 12 but in eighth grade, it was the third win in a row.
The Herald recently sat down with both spelling wiz kids to learn what makes them so adept with the language and so cool under pressure.
Naman, Clarke’s two-time defending champion, won the regional finals two years ago, as a sixth-grader, and advanced to the nationals in Maryland before being eliminated in the preliminary rounds. He said that while his previous success gives him added pressure succeed, it also motivates him to do better. “I wanted to make it my third time in a row,” he said.
His father, Kamlesh, and mother, Bijal, helped quiz him as he prepared for the competition. But when he’s alone on stage, he said, he breaks down words in order to successfully spell them, first asking for a word’s definition, then its etymology, or language of origin. “Which is probably the biggest factor in helping you spell the word,” he said.
For instance, Naman explained that he knew how to correctly spell his competition-winning word, “philodendron,” once he requested its definition and origin. “Philo” is a common Greek word, and “dendron” is Greek for tree.