By ANSLEY HAMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
June 01, 2008
The 13-year-old from West Lafayette, Ind. outlasted 287 other competitors and captured the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship Friday night by correctly spelling guerdon, a word of Germanic origin meaning reward.
Mishra outdueled Sidharth Chand, a 12-year-old from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., who misspelled prosopopoeia in the 15th round, just before Mishra nailed guerdon.
Mishra will receive $35,000 in cash plus more than $5,000 in other prizes.
Earlier Friday night Mishra provided comic relief. In the 9th round Dr. Jacques A. Bailly, one of the Bee officials, read "numnah," a sheepskin pad placed between a saddle and an animal's back. But Bailly's pronunciation sounded odd, prompting tittering from the crowd and a puzzled question from Mishra.
"Numbnut?" Mishra asked.
Bailly then more clearly stated the Hindi word.
"Oh, numnah!" said Mishra, 13, of West Lafayette, Ind. before correctly spelling it. "That's a relief."
Forty-five spellers began the semifinals Friday morning, but after three more rounds only 12 remained for Friday evening's championship finals. Competitors were tripped up by such stumpers as "cryptococcosis" (a fungal infection), "phrenicectomy"(excision of a portion of the phrenic nerve) and "cyathiform"(shaped like a cup).
The competitors Friday, who ranged from 10 to 15-years-old, typically asked Bailly for alternate pronunciations, definitions and etymologies. But Jahnavi K. Iyer of Enola, Pa. added an extra question to the mix in the 5th round.
"Could I have an easier word please?" asked the 14-year-old eighth grader at Eagle View Middle School.
Bailly laughed, declining the request.
Iyer managed to correctly spell "solidungulate," which means having single, undivided hoof on each foot. She so surprised herself that she ran the wrong direction back to her seat.
"I didn't know a lot of the words I got immediately," Iyer said before the championship finals. Iyer made it to the 10th round before misspelling "parfleche," a raw hide soaked in lye to remove the hair and dried.
A record-setting 288 spellers competed in this year's Bee. Eight international spellers made the semifinals, but none advanced to the championship finals. Twelve-year-old Sade Dunbar, from Kingston, Jamaica, was the best international speller, tying for 13th. In the 7th round she missed the word "hidradenitis," which means inflammation of the sweat glands.
Matthew Evans, a 13-year-old speller from Albuquerque, N.M. who was one of the favorites entering the Bee, received a standing ovation when he was eliminated in the 6th round. Evans, a five-time National Bee competitor, misspelled "secernent," (that which promotes secretion). He had finished 14th and 6th the previous two years.
Tia Thomas, also 13, from Coursegold, Calif., was most surprised by Evans' early departure. She and Evans, both of whom are home schooled, were competing against each other for the fifth time. The pair had been corresponding via instant messages throughout the year.
"I was sad," Thomas said. "I thought he would be one of the finalists this year."
Thomas admitted that she wouldn't have been able to spell Evans' word either. She would have spelled it with two "n"s.
In the seventh round, Thomas received a word she didn't know how to spell, "canicular." She asked Bailly, "May I please have the California pronunciation?"
Tia's mother, Pamela Thomas, said her daughter's joking question helped her make it to the finals.
Thomas advanced to the 13th round, where she finished 3rd after misspelling opificer.
Jake Smith, one of two Colorado brothers competing, had one goal in his last stab at the Bee: to appear on ESPN.
By advancing to Friday's semifinals Smith achieved his goal, but he was knocked out in the fifth round when he misspelled aulos, a Greek woodwind musical instrument.
The 13-year-old eighth grader at Aspen Creek K-8 School who was sponsored by the Boulder Daily Camera finished tied for 25th place. Last year he represented the Rocky Mountain News of Denver and finished 60th.
The rules of that regional Bee prohibited him from defending his championship. So he and his father moved to an apartment in Broomfield, Colo., for most of the school year so he could compete in Boulder's regional Bee.
Jake's younger brother, Alec, 11, represented the Rocky Mountain News in the National Bee this year. Unlike his older brother, he did not get to compete on ESPN. Thursday he misspelled the word spatiography (a science that deals with the region beyond the earth's atmosphere) and did not advance.
The boys' father, David Smith, said he and Jake would be moving back to the family's house in Douglas County, Colo. after the Bee. There are no immediate plans for members of the family to relocate again - even for spelling.
Some of the past national winners attended the championship finals, including the winner of the first Bee in 1925, Frank Neuhauser. As an 11-year-old boy from Louisville, Ky., he won with "gladiolus," taking home $500 in $20 gold pieces.
"It was a lot easier back then. There were only eight other competitors," said 94-year-old Neuhauser, who grew up to be a patent lawyer. "I would never make it now."
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com
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