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Fresno 7th-Grader Recalls Thrilling Year as Reigning National Spelling Bee Champ

FRESNO (KPIX) -- Ananya Vinay, age 12, remembers the feeling of winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee almost a year ago.

"It was really surreal because I've been imagining it so long. It was amazing to feel the confetti fall on me," said Vinay.

The Fresno 7th grader will never forget the final word: "M-A-R-O-C-A-I-N." She spelled with a smile.

Since then, it's been a marathon of memories for Vinay, her parents, and brother.

"We had to take an unexpected vacation and go to New York, and from New York, go to Los Angeles," explained Dr. Anupama Poliyedath, Ananya's mother.

"It's been a whirlwind," said Vinay. "It's been busy but full of lots of interesting things."

She rode the talk show circuit, starting with an appearance with host Jimmy Kimmel and his own amusing version of a spelling contest.

"It was really fun. Hearing all the mispronounced words and trying to figure them out," she laughed.

Her Mom recalls the VIP trip to the Bay Area:

"So we went in a limo as a family all the way to San Francisco," recalled Poliyedath.

Vinay continued, "And then I got to go to the Warriors game, and meet the Prime Minister of India, and go to the Google campus. It was really fun."

Vinay was California's elementary spelling bee champ for three years in a row.

The avid reader made it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the first time in 2016, but placed 172nd.

"I made a silly mistake on a word that I knew," Vinay recalled. "And that made me more motivated to do better next year."

That strategy worked.

Not only did she win, she knew all 35 words, and was confident even before she stepped on stage.

"She really was determined to win," Poliyedath reflected. "She even wrote her victory speech before she went in March."

Today, Vinay's spelling bee trophies fill a bookcase but she and her mom agree the lessons she's learned are far more valuable.

"The thing I remember the most is that I worked hard for something that I was passionate about, and I succeeded. That's what it really taught me," the middle school student concluded. "And it also taught me that it's all right to fail, as long as you get back up and try again."

Her mother added, "She has really bloomed into a very confident, self-assured person. Sometimes I feel she's more mature than I am."

In fact, with spelling behind her, this once-shy student is now becoming an expert in public speaking.

And she plans to give back to her Fresno community by helping coach its regional champ for this Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

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