For Eswar Ramamurthy, the hardest words to spell are science and culinary terms, because of their diverse origins.
So it seemed fitting that the Lux Middle School eighth-grader won the 32nd annual Lincoln Public Schools Oral Spelling Bee on Saturday with "flauta," a Mexican dish made by wrapping a tortilla around a filling of meat and cheese and then frying it.
The spelling bee, which was held at Culler Middle School, had 65 students from fifth to eighth grades spelling words such as "unguents" and "hexameter." The Lincoln Journal Star is a sponsor of the event.
Sherry Bothwell, administrative assistant for health, PE and secondary ELA at LPS, has coordinated the event the past seven years. She said the event went "really well."
"The reason we do the spelling bee is, not only do we look for kids to learn how to spell, but it is a great opportunity for them to do public speaking, to get in front of a crowd," Bothwell said. "And just that is half the battle, as we all know."
Ramamurthy also won the bee in 2016 and '17, while his twin brother, Sankar, won last year.
Although Eswar won this year after seven rounds, he and his brother went back-and-forth through 58 words before he took the crown in 2017.
The year's runner-up was Advait Singh, a sixth-grader at Scott Middle School.
Both Eswar and Singh have had other accomplishments this school year. The Ramamurthy twins represented Lux in the state science bowl last weekend at Wayne State College, with Sankar as team captain, and they will go to Washington, D.C., in April for nationals. Singh won the Scott National Geographic BEE in December, and will take a written exam to compete for nationals in D.C. in March.
Eswar said his win this year was "like a dream."
"I was, like, 'What if I win three times?'" he said. "It was so great to have it become a reality."
The Ramamurthy twins have been involved in spelling bees since the first grade, having gone to nationals for the North South Foundation, an East Indian-American association.
Since the fifth grade, the two have been involved in the LPS competition.
"We realized, 'Wow, I think I kind of like doing this,'" Eswar said. "And we were really good at spelling at school, and so we were, like, 'Maybe this is something we can pursue and do something with.'"
Being on stage is their "comfort zone," said their mom, Bhuvana Gopal.
"They love being in a setting where they can spell and show off their hard work," she said.
But despite the twins going neck-to-neck at the spelling bees, Gopal said the two don't seem to fight for the title.
"They both work hard and they encourage each other," she said. "There's really no competition between them, even though there's two of them up there."
Eswar said the two always cheer each other on, including last year, when his brother won for the first time.
"Once we got up there, just the two of us, we were, like, 'Any outcome is a good outcome,'" he said. "I'm always rooting for him, he's always rooting for me. He's a really good support system when I'm nervous."
Gopal said she's thrilled to see one of her sons win for the fourth year in a row.
"This is history being made," she said, "and we are superexcited."