Cary Junior High student wins McHenry County spelling bee, headed to Scripps

Seventh grader won on words ‘vassal’ and ‘scullery’

Neha Gopalakrishnan of Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills watches as Vishrut Kinikar of Cary Junior High School spells a word on his way to winning the McHenry County Regional Office of Education's 2023 spelling bee on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at McHenry County College's Luecht Auditorium in Crystal Lake.

Despite multiple spelling bee wins under his belt, Vishrut Kinikar said this one felt different.

His first-place finish at the McHenry County spelling bee Wednesday at McHenry County College marked the fourth time he’s won a spelling competition.

The first came in third grade, when he won his school’s spelling bee, he said. He won again in sixth grade, which sent him to last year’s McHenry County spelling bee, where he placed third.

This year, the seventh grader repeated as the winner at Cary Junior High School and had another shot at winning at the county level. He competed against 16 other students Wednesday.

“I was more nervous for this one because it was a county spelling bee,” Vishrut said. “But I took deep breaths and tried to control it.”

With his first-place win in the county competition, he will go on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the Washington, D.C., area.

He will also receive a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award and a premium one-year subscription to Britannica Online, according to a contest flyer.

It feels really great. I studied a lot to win this.

—  Cary Junior High School seventh grader Vishrut Kinikar on winning the McHenry County spelling bee

During the final rounds, which pitted him against eighth grader Neha Gopalakrishnan of Marlow Middle School in Lake in the Hills, Vishrut won after he spelled “vassal” and “scullery” correctly.

He and Neha traded off incorrect spellings at one point, with Vishrut misspelling “unctuous.” He said that was the only word that caught him off-guard.

In the past two weeks, Vishrut said he spent his time studying the word list for the competition, taking quizzes, and reading the dictionary – something his father, Yogesh Kinikar, said would have bored anybody else after 15 minutes.

“It feels really great,” Vishrut said. “I studied a lot to win this.”

Vishrut will be McHenry County’s first representative in a couple of years.

We’re looking forward to the trip, but this is where his hard work starts.

—  Yogesh Kinikar on his son winning a chance to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee

The county missed out the past two years. One year was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then last year, current McHenry County Regional Superintendent Diana Hartmann was appointed in January, after the deadline had passed, and missed the chance to apply.

“I’m excited for Vishrut and following his journey to the national contest,” Hartmann said.

As he prepares to go onto the national competition, which will take place from May 30 to June 1, Vishrut said he is happy he’ll get the chance to go.

The winner of the national contest wins $50,000, according to the contest’s website. Those placing below first will also have a chance at a number of awards.

Outside of spelling, Vishrut said math and physics are his passions. He also loves reading and playing the guitar and chess.

“This time there’s much more excitement, and we’re very, very happy for him,” Yogesh said of his son. “We’re looking forward to the trip, but this is where his hard work starts.”