Scripps’ most difficult words stumped the final two contestants of the National Spelling Bee, sending them to the first lightning-round tiebreaker in almost 100 years of Scripps Spelling Bees. Turns out, one of the most challenging words leading up to the tiebreaking spell-off has Northwest ties.

Seattle-area teen places fourth in Scripps National Spelling Bee

“Senijextee,” which does not have an origin provided in the dictionary, describes a Salishan people of the Columbia River Valley.

Vikram Raju, 12, a seventh grader from Denver, misspelled the word in round 14. He spelled the word “S-E-N-A-J-E-X-T-E-E,” but was not eliminated that round because his opponent, Harini Logan, a 14-year-old eighth grader from San Antonio, missed her next word. She misspelled “Powys” — an administrative area of east central Wales. She spelled the word “P-O-W-E-S-S.”

In the 90-second speed spelling tie-breaker, Harini spelled 21 words correctly, compared with 15 for Vikram.

Beyond “Senijextee,” the Northwest was also represented at the competition by three Washington teens. Fourteen-year-old Sirjana Kaur, an eighth grader at Redmond Middle School, and 13-year-old fraternal twins Saharsh Kesav Vuppala and Deetya Sai Vuppala, eighth graders who attend Annie Wright Middle School and Seabury Middle School, respectively, in Tacoma, were among the 234 spellers in National Harbor, Maryland, for the first fully in-person bee since 2019.

Sirjana misspelled “petronel” — a portable firearm used in the 16th and 17th centuries. She spelled the word “P-E-T-R-O-N-E-L-L-E,” finishing in 49th place, tied with other spellers eliminated in the fourth of seven quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.


During the sixth round, when spellers were asked to choose a definition or example of words given without a definition, Deetya was asked to choose an activity that is “ergogenic” — intended to enhance physical performance, stamina or recovery.

Deetya incorrectly chose “taking a course in public speaking.”

The correct answer from the three choices was “sleeping for an additional hour.” Deetya finished in 23rd place, tied with nine other spellers eliminated in the sixth round.

During the 10th round, Saharsh misspelled “phenocoll”: an antipyretic and analgesic drug. He spelled the word “P-H-E-N-O-C-O-L,” finishing in fourth place.

Seattle Times reporter Daisy Zavala Magaña contributed to this report.