- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Aaron W. Ho didn’t have to “skedaddle” off the stage after correctly spelling the uniquely American expression yesterday during the 77th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

“Actually, I expected something a lot worse” than skedaddle, said Aaron of the word that means to leave in a hurry. “This is my third year in the nationals, and expectations become higher, especially back home.”

Aaron, an eighth-grader from St. Jerome Catholic School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was among 265 finalists from across the country who came to the District this week to test their vocabularies and compete for the top prize, which includes $17,000.

Yesterday, 191 of the 265 participants spelled their first word correctly. Just 94 remained after their scores were combined with the results of a 25-word written test they took Tuesday. Today’s final rounds at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Northwest include 46 participants.

Aaron, 14, correctly spelled 22 words on the written test, which included the word “triskaidekaphobia,” which means a fear of the number 13.

His friend, Ari Goldstein, 17, tied for 16th in the 2001 bee.

In a round six years ago, Ari was stumped by the word “gneiss,” which is coarse-grained rock resembling granite. He said he expects today’s rounds to be pretty tough.

Maddy Kloss, an eighth-grader who attends Ingleside Middle School in Phoenix, appeared confident and composed while awaiting the announcement on who would advance to the next round.

“The toughest part was just waiting while the judge called out the numbers,” she said.

Maddy, 14, said she started preparing for the spelling bee in April. She and her mother, Suanne Rudley, got lists and books from which to study every day.

“The competition is tough,” she said. “The written test was interesting. You either know [the words] or you don’t. There was a tough word: ‘rijsttafel,’ and I don’t think anybody got that one.” The word refers to an Indonesian meal in which rice is served with a variety of foods and sauces.

The soft-spoken teenager breezed through rounds three and four by correctly spelling “recondite” and “strepitous,” which mean profound and boisterous, respectively.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking while you’re sitting on stage,” she said with a smile. “I get butterflies before I spell the word. … This is my first spelling bee, and if I win I’m going to put the money in my savings account. That’s what my mom would want me to do.”

Amar Mehta of Annapolis and Grace Meikle of Woodbridge, Va., got as far as round four. Amar misspelled “gastrilegous,” and Grace misspelled “marquisette.”

Marty Strauss of the District, Mehron Price of Upper Marlboro and Betsy Woodruff of Purcellville, Va., exited in early rounds.

Kamron Alford, an eighth-grader who attends C.H.E.S.S. Home School in St. James, Miss., started studying in October. He was ready for “byssinosis,” a lung disease; “mundungus,” a dark, smelly tobacco; and “pulchritudinous,” meaning beautiful.

“I feel pretty confident,” said Kamron, who has competed in spelling bees on a local level for four years.

His father, Scott, said he was proud Kamron had reached the national competition.

“I live vicariously through my son,” he said, laughing. “The things I never got to do.”

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