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Cary brothers have won past 5 Wake County spelling bees. Now, their dynasty must E-N-D.

Cary student competes in his third Scripps National Spelling Bee

Rahul Sachdev, 14, of Cary, will compete in his final spelling bee when he goes to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Rahul and his older brother, Rohan, have won the last five Wake County Spelling Bees. This will be Rahul's third Scripps Bee.
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Rahul Sachdev, 14, of Cary, will compete in his final spelling bee when he goes to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Rahul and his older brother, Rohan, have won the last five Wake County Spelling Bees. This will be Rahul's third Scripps Bee.

Some 300 trophies and awards fill the Sachdev family’s living room in Cary as signs of the academic and athletic success that two brothers, 16-year-old Rohan and 14-year-old Rahul, have enjoyed in their young lives.

The family will add another piece after Rahul travels to the Washington D.C. area during Memorial Day week to compete in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. But the trip will also mark the last spelling bee for the family, which has dominated the local competition with five consecutive victories of the Wake County Spelling Bee.

Rahul, an 8th-grade student at Carnage Middle School in Raleigh, won’t be eligible to compete when he enters high school. He’ll make his third and final Scripps national spelling bee. Rohan previously competed in two Scripps national bees.

“We’re actually happy to move on,” said Shubha Sachdev, Rohan and Rahul’s mother, in an interview. “It’s been a long journey. Lots of ups and downs, bittersweet at times, good memories.”

Rahul is among 562 spellers competing from around the world this year. There are 18 North Carolina spellers, including Sarah Fuccello, 13, an eighth-grade student at Riverwood Middle School in Johnston County, and Jason Sorin, 13, a seventh-grade student at Triangle Day School in Durham.

The 565 spellers will take a preliminary multiple-choice test on Monday. They’ll appear onstage to spell words Tuesday and Wednesday, with people being able to catch it on the Watch ESPN App..

Up to 50 spellers will compete Thursday, with the competition being shown on television on ESPN2. The finals, featuring around a dozen spellers, will be broadcast live Thursday evening on ESPN.

It was watching the bee on television that first attracted the Sachdev family so many years ago. Shubha said they hadn’t planned on making spelling bees such a big part of their lives, but the brothers were intrigued by what they saw.

Rohan was a second-grade student at Laurel Park Elementary School when he competed in 2011 in the first Wake County Spelling Bee held in more than a decade. Rahul said he knew he wanted to compete when he saw Rohan beat older students on the way toward finishing in the top 17 in the county bee.

“They didn’t let me compete in kindergarten,” Rahul said. “I watched him in the bee, and I thought I could do it as well. It was very interesting.”

The family’s domination began when Rohan won the Wake County Spelling Bee in 2015. Rahul won the following year.

In 2017, Rohan regained the county title and went on to finish 12th in the national bee. He became ineligible after enrolling in Enloe High School in Raleigh, where he’s now a sophomore.

Rahul has won the last two county bees.

“It’s commanding to end on a five-year streak that these two have,” said Rajan Sachdev, their father.

But as the brothers grew up, other interests took on greater importance, particularly tennis. Both are top-flight youth tennis players.

“Spelling is only until 8th grade,” Rahul said. “After 8th grade you can’t compete in spelling bees anymore. But tennis is lifelong.”

Rahul also participated this year in Carnage’s award-winning National Science Bowl Team. Shubha said that Rahul has very high expectations for himself academically.

“He will text me and he will say, ‘Mom I did bad,’” Shubha said. “I’ll be like ‘what was your grade?’

‘”I got a 98. I got a 96.’” I’ll say ‘Come on, that’s good, that’s OK.’”

Due to all the other things that Rahul has been involved with, he hasn’t spent as much time as he has in the past preparing for the national bee. As a result, he and his parents have set modest expectations for this year.

“Yes, nothing beats winning at Scripps,” Shubha said. “That’s obviously the dream but not everyone can fulfill that. You need time and that’s the one thing we don’t have.”

Rahul says he’s looking forward to the whole week of activities, which includes spending time with his fellow spellers.

“I’m definitely happy to move on to other things,” Rahul said. “But I am going to miss spelling bees. It’s been such a big part of my life.”

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.

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