Shawnee Mission 8th grader Ishya Bhavsar advances to Scripps National Spelling Bee

Ishya Bhavsar

Ishya Bhavsar, above, a student at Indian Hills Middle School in Prairie Village, won the Sunflower State Spelling Bee and now advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will hold its final round this year in person in Orland, Fla. File photo.

Ishya Bhavsar, an eighth grader at Indian Hills Middle School in Prairie Village, has won the Sunflower State Spelling Bee and now advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee this summer.

Not a traditional bee: This year’s state spelling bee which was held on Friday, March 26, looked different because of COVID-19 health restrictions.

Instead of a traditional contest with spellers taking turns at a mic, the state bee was an “oral spell down,” where contestants had to spell 50 words on a list.

Bhavsar won by correctly spelling 49 out fo the 50 words. She beat out 74 other students from across Kansas to advance to this summer’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be the first in two years since last year’s was canceled due to the pandemic.

Two-time champ: Bhavsar has won the Johnson County Spelling Bee two consecutive years, triumphing in this year’s bee by correctly spelling the word “onomatopoeia.”

But last year’s state bee was canceled because of the pandemic, so this year was the first time she got to test her mettle against other county bee winners.

Shawnee Mission School District officials say they can’t recall the last time a SMSD student won the state spelling bee. The Olathe School District was home to national spelling bee champs in 2009 and 2015.

National competition: Now, Bhavsar moves on to face some of the country’s best scholastic spellers.

This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee will hold three preliminary rounds virtually before inviting 10-12 finalists to an in-person competition in Orlando, Fla., on July 8.

That final round will be broadcast by ESPN.

In 2019, the last year the national bee was held, eight students finished in an unprecedented tie for first place after each correctly spelled words through 20 rounds.