Sister of last year's spelling champ heads to national bee

Kavya Shivashankar was visibly nervous Thursday sitting in the gallery at Frontier Trail Junior High School, watching her younger sister compete in the 2010 Olathe Spelling Bee.

But Vanya, her sister, showed the nerves of steel Kavya had when she won last year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"It's different having to watch," 13-year-old Kavya said.

For the Shivashankars, however, the result was the same.

On Thursday, 8-year-old Vanya won the Olathe bee, which means she's now headed to the national bee.

The competition starts June 2 in Washington, D.C.

"It's cool. I wanted to win this," Vanya said.

Vanya, a third-grader from Regency Place Elementary School, was a good speller even before her first major Olathe competition. She had helped Kavya practice and watched her compete for four years — but her father, Mirle Shivashankar, said Vanya had worked "very hard" in preparation for this year's bee. It was the first year Vanya was eligible to compete.

She uses a spelling style similar to her sister's, spelling out words with her finger on the palm of her other hand, but her delivery is confident and uniquely hers.

Vanya competed against 43 spellers and won in the 36th round after she correctly spelled "arrondissement," the word runner-up Ashwanth Samuel misspelled. Then she correctly spelled "apparatchik" for the victory.