Six local students representing the Bay Area compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Posted at 2:36 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 17:35:13-04

Here in the Tampa Bay Area, we'll be cheering on six local students competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this year. 


  • Tuesday, May 30: Preliminary Multiple Choice Test
  • Wednesday, May 31: Prelims round 2 and round 3 on ESPN 3
  • Thursday, June 1: Morning finals start on ESPN 2 at 10 a.m. EDT. Evening finals begin at 8 p.m. EDT.

Read more about this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee here

Get to know our local spellers below: 

Arsh Shah, 11, Palm Harbor




Arsh is a 5th grader at Ridgecrest Elementary School. He loves math and his team recently won in a gifted math meets competition. He also likes to travel and explore new places with his family every summer. In his free time, Arsh likes to play the piano and his favorite sport is basketball. 

Neil Dave, 11, Lakeland




Neil is a 6th grader at Lakeland Christian School. He has been participating in local spelling bees for the past six years. His vocabulary is mainly from reading a lot of books, including his favorite book series: Harry Potter. When he isn't reading books, Neil likes to play video games and his two favorites are Minecraft and ARK: Survival Evolved. Neil has a passion for dinosaurs, and his favorite movie series is Jurassic Park. Neil competed in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

Kaitlin Ryan, 13, Oldsmar




Kaitlin is a 7th grader at Espiritu Santo Catholic School. She enjoys playing man sports; her favorites being golf, soccer, basketball, wakeboarding and snow skiing. When she has some spare time, Kaitlin enjoys playing her guitar. Her SAT score earned her an invitation to attend the Academy for Summer Studies. She is also part of the Odyssey of the Mind team that is going to the state competition for the second consecutive year. Her favorite subjects are math and science which will be helpful since she plans to be an engineer in the future. 

David A DeCoursy, 11, Clearwater Beach

David is a 5th grader at Saint Paul's School. He loves spelling, discovering and conquering new words. He has a passion for reading that has helped him succeed in all of his subjects at school. David enjoys long boarding, swimming, sailing and biking throughout the year. He also likes to play soccer and videos games with his best friends. 

Rishi Padmanabhan, 14, Tampa

Rishi is an 8th grader at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. He was born in Philadelphia but has been living in Tampa since he was four-years-old. His true passion is basketball. In 2nd grade, he competed in his school-wide spelling bee, where he made it all the way to the finals and the top three. Rishi has always liked math and he has a strong ability to pick up music tunes. He loves to travel and he has been to many countries outside of the United States. He aspires to make it to a great University and play for their basketball team. 

Nick Sarji, 14, Tampa

Nick is an 8th grader from South Tampa Independent Learning. He enjoys playing sports, especially soccer. His favorite player is Marco Reus, who plays for Borussia Dortmund in Germany. Nick also enjoys geography. He came in 2nd place in the Hawaii State Geography Bee in 2015. He is also a writer and an essay of his made it to the Florida state level of competition in the Veterans of Foreign Wars essay contest. He loves hanging out with friends, whether they are riding their bikes to the dollar store or playing sports or fishing. Nick says when he grows up, he would like to work for either NASA or Google.