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Spelling bee runner-up returns to Oklahoma

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Rohan Rajeev

EDMOND, Okla. – The Edmond teenager who was the first runner-up in the Scripps National Spelling Bee returned home Saturday night.

A large crowd gathered at Will Rogers World Airport to welcome Rohan Rajeev back and let him know how proud they are of him.

“Give me an R! R! Give me an O! O! Give me an H! H! Give me an A! A! Give me an N! N!” the crowd chanted.

R-O-H-A-N spells champion.

The 8th grader from Oklahoma Christian School might not have won it all, but he is the second best speller in the entire country, narrowly missing the first place by the word ‘marram.’

“We never expected he would come in second place. So, it’s really, really – we are all excited for him,” said Susie Rajeev, Rohan’s mother.

Rohan spent countless hours on weekends learning words and their origins, even Skyping with past finalists.

“If you put your mind to it and you put in the work, you can definitely win. It’s not out of reach. Anyone can do it. And, it’s – I love doing the spelling bee. It’s just amazing,” he said.

Rohan Rajeev

Rohan’s family credits his hard work and dedication but also a higher power.

“The poise, and the determination and the – everything for a first-timer on that big stage was very surprising. It has to be from God,” said his dad, Rajeev Muralidharan.

Another motivating factor is his sister, Raina, and her severe physical disability.

She understands words, but cannot verbalize them.

“So, Rohan takes this as a challenge that he wants to do things that she cannot do,” Muralidharan said.

Rohan Rajeev and his sister

Long-term, Rohan wants to pursue neuroscience because of his sister.

His dad said his $30,000 in winnings will most likely go to his college savings.

“He doesn’t even have a phone. I mean, he’s a teenager, and he doesn’t ask for anything. He doesn’t demand anything. I would like to use it for him,” Muralidharan said.

Rohan said this has been an amazing journey.

So, what comes next?

A little B-R-E-A-K.

“Probably going to relax and enjoy the summer,” Rohan said.

Rohan said it’s his friends and family praying and supporting him that got him this far.