- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2011

Though she conquered a week’s worth of words that ranged from tongue-twisters to silent-lettered tricksters, 14-year-old Sukanya Roy couldn’t quite say how she felt after becoming the 87the Scripps National Spelling Bee champion.

Hours after her regular bedtime, the Newton Ransom, Penn. resident correctly spelled “periscii” and “cymotrichous” to clinch the title.

“My heart started pounding, I couldn’t believe it,” Sukanya said, her skinny frame shaking with excitement and adrenaline as she clutched her champion trophy. “I just wanted to make sure I spelled it right. I really didn’t want to get it wrong. It’s just amazing and it’s hard to put it into words.”

Sukanya competed in the national bee in 2009, where she placed 12th and last year where she placed 20th.

An only child, Sukanya said she hadn’t given much thought to the $30,000 prize money because she took it “round by round to see how far I got. I guess some is going to a college fund and some I’m just going to spend myself.”

Coming in second was Toronto eighth-grader Laura Newcombe, a fan favorite thanks to her quirky facial reactions and witty banter with the judges.

Laura misspelled “sorites” in the second round of what would have been a showdown of 25 “champion words” — a “lightning round” of sorts between the final two contestants — and as she heard the judge’s bell it was the first time the 12-year-old’s smile wavered throughout the competition.

The championship finals whittled down the 13 spellers slowly but inevitably, except for the second round which knocked out four students. First-time bee participant Dhivya Murugan, 10, buried her head in her mother’s arms after being eliminated for misspelling “ephelides,” and 14-year-old Mashad Arora refused a hug from his parents after “samiel” tripped him up.

The emotional and exciting three-hour finals capped off a challenging day of competition that drew cheers, high fives and not a small amount of dejected sighs.

The personalities of the 41 semifinalists were rivaled only by the range of words they faced to be the one holding the gleaming champion’s trophy at the end of the night.

Whittled down from 275 spellers and three rounds of competition, the spellers gathered at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, having come from across the United States, as well as several other countries.

The semifinalists battled through four rounds of spelling that served up words such as “isochronal,” “graphorrhea,” “rhabdomancer” and “hypotrichosis.”

Samuel Estep, 13, attributed his success to working with a spelling coach, but acknowledged being amazed that he “could actually do this.”

“She gave me different lists of words from different languages,” said Samuel, of Berryville, Va., his blue eyes twinkling behind his glasses. “I didn’t know the first French word I got. I wasn’t sure if I should say ‘i’ or ‘e,’ but I said ‘i.’ “

The word was “brisance” and is a noun that refers to the result of an explosion that’s dependent in part on the rate of detonation.

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