All the right words

Fifth grade student, Solum Sukhatankar, will compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.


Parker Nolan

Fifth grader Solum Sukhatankar won the Golden Chick Regional Spelling Bee with the word “decamerous”.



Fifth-grader Sohum Sukhatankar walked into school with the spellings of these medical conditions and eight more of the longest words in the English language cemented in his mind.

His teacher would be testing him on the words, which he chose himself–everyone in his class was told to select any 10 words they pleased to be evaluated on.

When the time came to display his knowledge, Sohum didn’t make one mistake.

Every lavish word was perfect. The T’s and I’s–the many, many I’s–were crossed and dotted without flaw.

Sohum’s innate talent for spelling eventually led him past classroom spelling tests to the Golden Chick Regional Spelling Bee, where he was crowned the winner after correctly spelling decamerous.

“I was happy but also relieved because some of the other kids, they were going through the words fast,” Sohum said. “They weren’t even breaking a sweat.”

Sohum’s spelling career began in his early elementary years, when he would share his lexical proficiency with his friends.

“I think he was in first or second grade and his favorite thing to do on the bus was find these really long words and share them with his best friend,” Sohum’s mother Gargi Sukhatankar said. “They used to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the name of a really long island–I think it was in New Zealand or something. There’s this really long word for fish. He used to talk about those words and memorize them and then quiz his friends.”

Sohum’s parents began to notice his interest in and knack for spelling. Sohum’s consistently perfect scores on his spelling tests and constant reading were also indicators of his talent.

“He loves reading,” Gargi said. “Ever since he learned how to read, he was always with books. Every week, his favorite thing to do is go to the library and get a lot of books. That’s why we kind of knew that that was something he enjoyed, as well.”

Sohum practices with online resources his parents download, as well as with a dictionary, where he’ll mark words he finds challenging. Sohum said he enjoys spelling because of its linguistic benefits.

“In spelling, I learn the definition of a lot of words, and I find that pretty cool because there’s a bunch of different languages that you can learn from,” Sohum said. “You get to improve your vocabulary.”

Sohum’s victories at Lovejoy’s elementary school spelling bees qualified him for the Golden Chick competition.

“Through Lovejoy, there is a school champion which is selected, and Sohum had won the spelling bee when he was in fourth grade, as well,” Sohum’s father Mandar Sukhatankar said. “So we knew fifth grade was another shot for him to participate in the bee. He’s always had an interest in [spelling], and we were just looking for avenues to encourage that interest, and that’s basically how we got him enrolled in the first place.”

Now, Sohum will move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 31 to June 1 in Washington, D.C.

“I would like to see the Washington Monument,” Sohum said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Washington D.C. I’ve heard it’s pretty fun.”

In the near future, Sohum may compete in the North South Spelling Bee. In the distant future, Sohum said he wants to become a doctor.

“I would like to be a doctor because I find it interesting,” Sohum said. “Also, it makes me happy to be able to save people’s lives.”

If he achieves his career goals, Sohum probably won’t have trouble spelling his future patient’s illnesses.