Roscoe student Avani Joshi moves on to the National Spelling Bee semifinals


Avani Joshi, three-time Spelling Bee and Geography Bee champion at Roscoe Middle School

By correctly spelling the word "arietta" in Round 6 on Tuesday, 13-year-old Avani Joshi of Roscoe clinched her position at the Scripps National Spelling Bee as one of the top 30 spellers who will move on to the semi-finals of on June 27. Avani completed 8th grade at Roscoe Middle School, so this will be the last year she qualifies for the National Spelling Bee, which includes 3rd to 8th graders. This is Avani's second appearance in the National Spelling Bee. In 2019, she tied for 370th place out of 562.

The semifinals will be broadcast live on ESPN2 on June 27, 6:00 - 10:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time, and will continue for as many rounds as needed until only the top 10-12 spellers remain. The 2021 finals will be held live on Thursday, July 8, at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida and will be broadcast in primetime on ESPN2.

Today's quarterfinals were broadcast on ESPN3 on June 15, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. CDT, in three rounds, completed one round at a time.  In Round 4, Avani successfully spelled "ramentum" Next, in Round 5, Avani chose the correct answer for "What is sophistry?" which was "plausible but fallacious reasoning." 

Finally, in Round 6, Avani had to spell "arietta." She asked the Bee's official pronouncer, Dr. Jacques Bailly, for a definition of the word: "a short accompanied and usually elaborate melody sung by a single voice (as in an opera or oratorio)." Avani asked Dr. Bailly if the word was related to opera, which he said it was. Then she wanted to confirm if it had an Italian ending, and it did. Finally, writing the word into the palm of her hand with her finger, she spelled it correctly.   Head Judge Mary Brooks warmly congratulated her and told her she was headed for the semifinals.

At the preliminaries on Saturday, June 12,  Avani correctly spelled "rouille" (a Provençal sauce made from pounded red chili peppers, garlic, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients blended with stock, typically added to bouillabaisse) and "embosk" (to hide or conceal oneself with foliage or greenery). She also correctly answered that an excursion is "a short, fun trip." 

With the other 209 young people, Avani had to compete in the preliminaries and quarterfinals virtually, participating from home. To keep their hands visible so the judges can see they're playing fair, they usually clasped them under their chins. Many of the contestants apparently had family watching just off-screen. 

Part of the contestants' strategy was to ask Dr. Jacques Bailly or Associate Pronouncer Dr. Brian Sietsema to provide as much information as possible,  such as word origin, alternate spellings, or etymology. If the student suggested a root word that might be behind the one they had to spell, Dr. Sietsema could confirm or deny it, perhaps by telling them, "You're on the right track."

Avani qualified for the National Spelling Bee by spelling the word "obediential" in the State of Illinois competition. On her way, she also spelled the following words correctly in local competition:  scumble, ulterior, fraudulent, attributive, globul. 

Avani says she loves competing in spelling and geography bees. She completed a hat trick at Roscoe Middle School, as her school's geography and spelling bee champion for three consecutive years. She also qualified for the Illinois State Geographic Bee in 2019 and 2020, before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Geographic Bee is held in Washington DC.

Avani loves participating in Science Olympiad competitions, as well. This year, she won nine medals in total, from invitational and regional competitions. Out of those, five are gold medals, two are silver, and two are bronze. Avani's team from Roscoe Middle School, competing through Rock Valley College, qualified for the state competition, which was held virtually in April. 

Avani says, "I also love nature and want to contribute towards preserving forests and endangered species." Her name fits that desire, since "Avani" means "Earth" in Sanskrit, one of the three languages she is learning (the other two are Spanish and Hindi). She is also learning Bharatnatyam, one of the major South Indian classical dance traditions. She plays the piano and the violin, but also enjoys technology and coding, with the goal of mastering the C++ language one day.

Click on the photo below to view an image gallery from the quarterfinals.

Roscoe student Avani Joshi spelled "arietta" to secure her place in Sunday's Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals.
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