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Meet the Colorado 7th-grader who almost won the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Vikram Raju, a seventh-grader at Aurora Quest, was the runner-up and participated in the first spell-off ever at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

DENVER — Crazy. Exhilarating. Exciting.

Those are the words that Vikram Raju, a seventh-grader at Aurora Quest K-8, used to describe being the first speller ever to participate in a Scripps National Spelling Bee spell-off.

"That was a really crazy round," he said. "It was really exhilarating just because of the speed and pace of the round. There was so much pressure to get the word off really quickly, and that’s part of what made it so exciting."

> Video above: Watch Vikram Raju quiz the 9NEWS Mornings crew on words he spelled correctly at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Vikram, 12, rattled off the spellings of words like spealbone, phreatophyte and talisay – getting 15 words correct in the 90-second spell-off and placing second behind Harini Logan, 14, of San Antonio, Texas, who got 22 words.

It was Vikram's third appearance at the competition and his best finish yet. He took home a $25,000 scholarship and said he hopes to return for a fourth time next year.

The spell-off came after Vikram and Harini both spelled two words correctly, then each missed four in a row. Scripps then brought out a podium and buzzer for the lightning round that all the finalists had practiced for in the mostly empty ballroom hours earlier.

"There’s no time to think," Vikram said. "You just have to be in the moment and spell the word."

Credit: 9NEWS
Vikram Raju, 12, from Aurora finished second in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee after participating in the first spell-off in its history.

Vikram said he thought about each word and whether he had heard it before. If he hadn't, he said he looked for patterns that he could use to spell the word quickly.

He said he'd heard most of the words before, though.

"The cool thing about spelling is that languages have different patterns that you can use for different sounds," he said. "Different sounds have different spellings, and you can use those sounds to piece together words."

After the competition was over, Vikram got to tour the White House and meet Dr. Jacques Bailly, the official pronouncer for the spelling bee and another Colorado native – he grew up in Denver.

Credit: AP
Vikram Raju, 12, from Aurora, Colo., competes during the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Colorado's other participants at this year's National Spelling Bee, both from Boulder County, finished in the top 40.

Tejas Raman, 12, a sixth-grader at Boulder Country Day School, tied for 23rd place.

Zoe Keith, 14, an eighth-grader at Summit Middle School, tied for 32nd place.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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