For Harini Logan, winning the National Spelling Bee has been a focus since she was in the second grade. More than six years later, the San Antonio student has the title she pursued for so long.
Harini, 14, earned the title Thursday night in the 2022 competition’s first-ever spell-off, correctly spelling the word “moorhen” — a female red grouse — to defeat Coloradoan Vikram Raju at the competition in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
“Honestly, just so surreal,” said Harini on national television when asked how she felt after winning, especially after the historic spell-off. “This is just such a dream. I’m just overwhelmed.”
It was Harini’s fourth appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is open to participants through the eighth grade. Harini tied for 323rd place in 2018, tied for 30th in 2019 and tied for 31st in 2021, according to the New York Times. The competition was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harini made her way to the bee after her last day of school at the Montessori School of San Antonio, which she has attended since kindergarten. Theresa Powers, the school’s program director, described her as a savvy competitor with a love for competitive spelling.
“Everybody knows her for her spelling, but it is certainly not the only thing I know her for. She is someone who really is a team player,” said Powers. “Clearly, her speaking skills … she has so much focus, persistence.”
In her time at the Montessori School, Powers said Harini has helped nurture the love of words and for reading in her classmates.
“She really is the whole package,” Powers said. “[Her victory] did not surprise me. I was amazed by Harini, but I was not surprised to see her performance because she really has an incredible mind.”
Harini also has an interest in artificial intelligence and medicine. She recently gave a TED Talk-style presentation about her passion for those topics. Along with her presentation, she submitted a research paper, an ode and a data analysis, Powers said.
“She certainly is an intellectual, but really down to earth,” Powers said. “I think that’s the other piece that is so nice about Harini.”
Now that Harini has graduated from the private Montessori School, she will attend high school at St. Mary’s Hall, another local private school.
With her win, she earned a $50,000 cash prize, a medal and trophy, and another $2,500 cash prize from Merriam-Webster, the Bee’s dictionary partner. She also received $400 of reference works.
Harini got to the national bee after winning the 2022 Brauntex Bee Regional Spelling Competition in New Braunfels. In Maryland, she competed against more than 220 spellers from around the country over two days.
“I just had to take a deep breath and tell myself that I just got there and do my best and whatever happens, it happens,” said Harini.
In those intense last moments, Harini and 12-year-old Vikram had 90 seconds to spell as many words as possible from a predetermined list of words.
Vikram went first and spelled 19 words within the minute-and-a-half allowed, 15 of which were spelled correctly. Harini was waiting backstage, wearing headphones to prevent her from hearing her final competitor. When it was her turn, she correctly spelled 22 words out of 26 attempted, according to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
As she was announced the winner, her parents, Priya Logan and Logan Anjaneyulu, and little brother Naren Logan, rushed on stage to congratulate her with hugs and kisses.