- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

An eighth-grader from Indiana yesterday clinched the 77th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling “autochthonous” before a packed ballroom of judges, spellers and parents at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Northwest.

In shock, David Scott Tidmarsh, 14, covered his face with his hands after he spelled the winning word that means indigenous or native. Minutes before his victory, David correctly spelled “gaminerie,” which means impudent or roguish or wise-cracking spirit.

“I was happy I got a word I studied,” said David, who hit the books four hours a day during the school week to prepare for the national spelling bee. He said he studied five to six hours each day on the weekends.

Autochthonous “was on one of my lists and I wanted to make sure that I took my time,” the youngster said after hoisting his winner’s trophy high in the air.

During the afternoon rounds, the soft-spoken bookworm, who attends Edison Intermediate Center in South Bend, encountered some tough words, including “serpiginous” (creeping or spreading) and “sophrosyne” (discretion or prudence).

Among his toughest competitors was Akshay Buddiga, 13, the younger brother of the 2002 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee winner, Pratyush Buddiga.

Akshay, an eighth-grader who attends Mountain Ridge Middle School in Colorado Springs fainted during Round 6. But the boy quickly stood up and correctly spelled “alopecoid,” which means like a fox. Akshay received a standing ovation from the audience.

He was led off stage for a medical check and returned for the next round.

Seated in a chair in front of the microphone, Akshay correctly spelled the word “lyophilize,” which means to dry by freezing in a high vacuum. His family looked on nearby.

The two young men faced off in Round 14, which ended up being Akshay’s last. He incorrectly spelled “schwarmerei,” which means excessive enthusiasm or sentimentality. The disappointed youngster joined his family seated on stage with other finalists’ parents.

“I’m proud of both of my sons, they’re good kids,” said Jayasimha Buddiga, Akshay’s dad, after the spelling bee ended.

Keagan Tafler, 13, is not only a good speller but perhaps psychic. The eighth-grader from Oswego Middle School in Oswego, N.Y., predicted earlier yesterday that David, along with three other excellent spellers, could win this year’s spelling bee.

“This is my second time at the Nationals and my fourth time at the Regionals. And it’s mostly been a lot of fun,” said Keagan, who hung out with fellow speller John D. Oxenreiter Jr. before the spelling bee resumed yesterday afternoon.

Keagan said she missed qualifying to move on to the next round by one point. She studied an hour a day for two months before the spelling bee began earlier this week.

David returns home with a $12,000 cash prize from Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, a $5,000 cash prize from Franklin Electronic Publishers and a $1,000 savings bond from Merriam-Webster Inc.

“I’m not sure what I am going to do [with the money],” David said. “My parents will probably put it in savings, but I’ll take a little and spend at the mall.”

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