Bell School 7th-grader advances to national spelling bee after citywide championship

A Bell School seventh-grader is headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee after winning the citywide championship Tuesday.

Nidhi Kulkarni, 12, won the competition on the final word “myocarditis” — defined as the inflammation of the heart muscle. A seventh-grader from the Nettelhorst School took second place.

The match, hosted at Curie High School in Archer Heights, featured dozens of Chicago Public Schools students from first through eighth grade.

Kulkarni is an avid reader and Science Olympiad participant, according to Bell School Principal Ashley Reyes. She received coaching from the school’s librarian ahead of the event.

“Her victory not only showcases her exceptional talent but also embodies the values we hold dear in our Bell community,” Reyes said in a statement. “Through her exemplary vocabulary and sharp deductive reasoning skills, Nidhi has proven herself as a spelling maven!”

The Scripps Spelling Bee will take place in May in Washington, D.C. Kulkarni will go up against hundreds of spellers from around the country for a $50,000 cash prize. An Elmhurst eight-grader and an Island Lake sixth-grader also recently qualified.

The last time an Illinois student won the prestigious competition was 1985.