Minn. 13-Year-Old Wins National Spelling Bee

ByGreg Toppo

W A S H I N G T O N, May 31, 2001 -- Equipped with nerves of steel and an inner

dictionary that just wouldn't quit, a 13-year-old Minnesota boy won

the 2001 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, surviving 16 rounds

and outlasting 247 other young competitors.

Sean Conley of Anoka, Minn., who finished second in last year'scontest, won by spelling "succedaneum," which means,appropriately, "one that succeeds to the place of another."

Sean went word-for-word for five breathless rounds with KristinHawkins, a soft-spoken Virginia eighth-grader who, like Sean, wasparticipating in the national bee for the third time.

Kristin coolly competed with Sean, rattling off such words as"hamartia" as if she were spelling her own last name. The wordmeans "a defect of character."

‘Resipiscence’ Trips Up Competition

But then she stumbled over "resipiscence," meaning a change ofmind or heart.

Sean will take home $10,000, while Kristin will get $5,000.

The three-day competition began Tuesday, and by the end of thefourth round, the original group of 248 spellers had shrunk to 34.Sean won in the 16th round.

It probably didn't help that the final day of competition wasbroadcast on live TV. In fact, as soon as the broadcast began, thefirst seven students misspelled their words.

The group included diminutive Sara Brand, 11, a sixth-graderfrom Knoxville, Tenn., who mulled over "Australopithecus" for solong the judges asked that she please get to the spelling. Shebegan it with an "O" and never recovered.

A few minutes later, Abhijith Eswarappa, 13, of Memphis, Tenn.,broke the losing streak by carefully spelling "fimbrillate," aword meaning "bordered with a minute fringe."

Eve Vokes, a fifth-grader from San Antonio, Texas, her blondehair pulled back into tight, matching braids, stared at the judges,her hands pinned behind her, as she puzzled over "nisei," anAmerican-born Japanese person. She spelled it "nesae."

Arnica, Kudize, Hyoid …

Many of this morning's words were smaller but no lessdifficult than the tongue-twisting, polysyllabic standards.

Stephen Hou, 12, of Fort Mill, S.C., missed "arnica," an herbused to soothe bruises and sprains.

Apollo Stacy, 12, of Jonesboro, Ark., replaced the "k" in"kudize" with a "ch."

It means "to praise" or give someone kudos.

Melanie Kidder, 14, an eighth-grader from Bellaire, Ohio,endured nearly five minutes onstage as judges wearing headphoneslistened to a taped playback of her spelling "hyoid," referringto bones at the base of the tongue.

Finally the head judge looked up and said, "That's correct,Melanie," to cheers and applause from the crowd.

Like last year, Italian food knocked Lauren Fowler, of FortPierce, Fla., out of competition.

This year it was "saltimbocca," a sauteed veal dish thatliterally means "jumps in the mouth." In 2000, she missed"biscotti."

Lauren, a sixth-grader whose wavy blonde hair reaches to herwaist, said she didn't study very hard for the competition,preferring to spend her free time playing piano and cello, singingin a church choir and studying painting.

"I just kind of try my best because I have other things that Ido," she said.

Eleven-year-old Rebecca Clendaniel of Milford, Del., missed"obmutescence," meaning keeping silent or mute. Asked what herspelling strategy is, she replied flatly, "I guess."

Her mother, Janet, jumped in. "She reads a lot, so sheencounters a large amount of unusual words."

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