Chesterfield's national spelling expert, Gokul Venkatachalam was recognized for his abilities Wednesday night by
Gokul, a fifth grader at Claymont Elementary, advanced to the semifinal round in 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee until tripping up on the word "kahikatea" a word of Maori origin referring to a type of coniferous tree found in New Zealand.
He had only nine competitors left in the nation at that point, out of 278 local champs who started. The top winner was an 8th-grader.
Venkatachalam misspelled the word as "kaikatea" after Spelling Bee officials pronounced the word incorrectly, as though it had a silent "h" but native Maori speakers say the "h" is pronounced.
His school principal, Aaron Wills, said when he was preparing remarks earlier with Gokul to introduce him at the school board meeting, Gokul pointed out words to Wills that were spelled incorrectly in his remarks—the audience got a laugh over that.
Gokul correctly spelled "quotidian" and "widdershins" during preliminary rounds held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C. in Maryland
Earlier in the semifinal rounds, Venkatachalam correctly spelled "Frore" and "Souterrain."
Gokul said he plans to compete again. He first beat some 36 contestants in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Spelling Bee, and was sponsored by the newspaper for the national contest.