WASHINGTON – Who says Cleveland can’t win a championship?
The long-suffering sports city – which can’t seem to win a trophy on a court or a field – captured one in a hotel ballroom Friday night when 14-year-old Anamika Veeramani took first prize at the 83rd Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“Go Cavs!” Anamika said, shortly after accepting the winner’s trophy, which also comes with more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
The Cavaliers, of course, lost their bid to win the NBA title this year, which allowed star center Shaquille O’Neal to drop by earlier in the day and film a segment for his reality show. Anamika, who lives in the Cleveland suburb of North Royalton, has never been to a game but is a big fan.
The eighth-grader also plays golf, likes to dance, wants to go to Harvard and become a cardiovascular surgeon. She has the demeanor to pull it off: She stood deadpan with her hands behind her back after spelling the winning word, the medical term “stromuhr,” and didn’t crack a smile until the trophy was presented.
“It was too surreal,” she said. “It was an amazing experience. I usually have a poker face, so that’s what that was.”
Anamika, who finished tied for fifth last year, became the third consecutive Indian-American champion, and the eighth in the last 12 years. It’s a run that began when Nupur Lala won in 1999 and was featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”