Upadhyayula’s rewarding spelling career comes to an end
February 3, 2016
Through the grueling hours of memorization, strenuous concentrating and stressful moments during competitions, the arduous, yet rewarding spelling career of Coppell Middle School West eighth grader Smrithi Upadhyayula has reached its end.
The fruits of Upadhyayula’s labor are not only the dozens of trophies displayed along her desk but come in the intangible form of traits perseverance, work ethic and dedication she will carry with her into her bright future.
“You have to keep working hard at it even though it gets boring sometimes – but you will eventually get the award for it, which is moving on to the next level,” Upadhyayula said. “It has helped me set my mind on a goal.”
Upadhyayula’s spelling career started in a local competition when she was in the third grade and won second place against eighth graders. Her parents realized that she had the potential to be a great speller and fostered her talent in the field.
Just as any novice speller, Upadhyayula never prepared for a spelling bee before and became frustrated with her lack of progress, especially without a spelling coach to guide her.
“In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing and I did not want to do it when I saw I wasn’t successful but I decided to kept going,” Upadhyayula said.
As Upadhyayula started to gain confidence while she continued winning competitions and expanding the range of her vocabulary, by the end of her career she had traveled to New Jersey, California, Ohio, North Carolina and Washington D.C. for competitions.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure, I was scared [to compete] at first but it definitely gets better,” Upadhyayula said.
After the beginning stages of her spelling career, her parents did not have to push her on any occasion, all her determination and drive came from within. At the end of her journey, her parents have achieved their true goals of teaching her the value of commitment and persistence, the real reason they encouraged her to compete in spelling bees.
“More than the wins and trophies, it is the lessons that she learned from this journey that are worth all the time and effort that she poured into this,” mother Padmini Upadhyayula said.
Her eighth grade English teacher, Stephanie Howell, plays an important part in motivating Smrithi before competition and even sets up mock spelling bees in class for confidence and encouragement.
“I think she is phenomenal, she has worked really hard to become an outstanding speller and she is reaping the benefits of all her hard work,” Howell said.
During the spelling season, Upadhyayula diligently studies a hour on the weekdays and six to eight hours every weekend. Since Upadhyayula is starting high school next year, her mother is relieved she gets the opportunity to channel her talents elsewhere.
“I am happy that she does not have to go through the gruelling practices anymore after this year,” Mrs. Upadhyayula said.
Spelling bees are an activity that end after the eighth grade, but even with nowhere else to take her skill, the grammar, competitive spirit and vocabulary skills will be with her lifelong.
“I have heard from a lot of different spellers that it feels like there is something missing from what you are doing,” Upadhyayula said. “I’m sure I am going to feel the same because I have spent so much time on [spelling]. It is going to feel a bit strange at first.”
Last year was Upadhyayula’s first time on the Scripps National stage – an experience she will never forget and is very thankful for. The experience is something she hopes for again, but she acknowledges that the competition is growing. Even though she went once, she might not get the opportunity again.
This year, Upadhyayula won the Coppell Independent School District Spelling Bee for the fourth time, and is preparing for the Dallas County Spelling Bee on Feb. 18. Soon after that she will move on to The Dallas Morning News Regional Bee, and finally, nationally, if she can match her past performances.
“The competition itself is thrilling to know that there are a bunch of people watching you while spelling these words,” Upadhyayula said.
Although best known for her talent in spelling, Upadhyayula has widespread talents outside of her academic interests. She is an avid aficionado of the arts as a flute player and singer, talents which she hopes to cultivate in high school, and many other hobbies to keep herself occupied.
“I know when I grow up I want to be an author on the side no matter what I decide to do,” Upadhyayula said. “I have already finished a book and I am editing it and writing my next one.”
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