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6-Year-Old May Be Out Of Spelling Bee, But This Kid Is A Winner

Thirteen-year-old Alex Iyer (left) gives 6-year-old Akash Vukoti a high-five as Akash leaves the stage after misspelling a word in Round 3 of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday in National Harbor, Md.
Alex Wong
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Thirteen-year-old Alex Iyer (left) gives 6-year-old Akash Vukoti a high-five as Akash leaves the stage after misspelling a word in Round 3 of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday in National Harbor, Md.

Six-year-old Akash Vukoti has won our hearts — if not the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

He was the youngest of the 285 contenders in this year's competition, and even though he misspelled "bacteriolytic" in Round 3, he will not be forgotten.

Akash appeared in an official ad for the competition and has been on NBC's Little Big Shots. In this video from Vox, Akash shares his favorite word:

His hometown paper, the San Angelo Standard-Times in Texas, says Akash has been competing for four years — as in, he started when he was 2. He can also read and write fluently in Telugu and Hindi, according to his profile on the spelling bee website. Reporter Chris Weller of Tech Insider described a Skype interview with Akash this way in March:

"In between fits of throwing himself into the sofa and covering the lens of his iPad (much to his father's resistance), he delivered strings of complex sentences with minimal effort. He was also immensely polite, repeatedly calling me 'Mr. Weller' even after I told him 'Chris' was just fine."

Weller said Akash, who is home-schooled, studies words for at least an hour a day. At the time, Akash insisted he was "not nervous at all" to be in the national spelling competition.

He didn't go all the way this time, but we've got our eye on him for next year.

In Akash's absence, there are still plenty of young geniuses to root for in Thursday's semifinals and finals. The finals will be broadcast on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET and live-tweeted here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.