Indian Hills spelling whiz Divya Hegde on her way to state bee

Divya Hegde won the Johnson County Spelling Bee in February.
Divya Hegde won the Johnson County Spelling Bee in February.

When Divya Hegde and her family make the four hour drive west to Fort Hays State University today, it shouldn’t bee too difficult to find something to pass the time. There are 450 words on the Scripps Spelling Bee study list, after all.

Hegde earned the right to represent Johnson County along with seven other students in Saturday’s state competition by winning the Johnson County Spelling Bee Feb. 13. After more than 15 rounds, Hegde’s window for victory opened when her final remaining competitor misspelled “myriad.” Hegde spelled that word correctly, and then got the word “dachshund” in a final spell-it-right-and-win scenario.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I know this word!'” she said. “I was pretty excited.”

Hegde has been competitively spelling since she was a fourth grader at Prairie Elementary. Last year she came in second in the Indian Hills meet behind Ellie Green, who went on to win the county bee and represent Johnson County at state. Hegde said she loves the challenge of parsing out a word, even when she isn’t familiar with it.

“Just figuring it out, if you don’t know the word,” she said. “You ask all the questions, and you get it right. That’s a great feeling.”

Hegde moved to the United States with her family from India when she was six months old. In addition to English, she speaks her parents’ native tongue, Kannada, at home, and is taking Spanish in school. She says a familiarity with other languages, especially Latin and Greek, helps her suss out the correct spellings of many words.

But there’s one language she isn’t a huge fan of.

“French,” she said. “Their patterns can vary a lot and they have a lot of silent parts. It’s one of the ones I have trouble with sometimes.”

The winner of Saturday’s Sunflower Spelling Bee will earn the right to represent Kansas in the national Scripps Spelling Bee.