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Nervous Brooklynite wins National Spelling Bee


WASHINGTON (AP) Rebecca A. Sealfon overcame a bad case of nerves to win the 70th National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word "euonym.''

The 13-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., knew she had won when she was given the word in 22nd round. She had such butterflies she had to sit offstage for part of today's contest.

The winning word means a good name or appropriate name for a person, place, or thing.

Prem Murthy Trivedi, 11, from Howell, N.J., was eliminated after he couldn't spell "cortile,'' a word meaning courtyard. The two had battled it out for five rounds as the only remaining contestants from an original field of 245.

The champion gets $5,000 in cash, a laptop computer, encyclopedia and other gifts, not to mention fame and a trophy.

Words like "banausic,'' meaning practical, and "loxocosm,'' a measuring device, took their toll on contestants today.

Earlier, the remaining contestants, sporting uniform white polo shirts and wearing large yellow plaques with their number and sponsor, occupied four rows of seats on a raised, maroon platform. As one spoke, two stood waiting.

One, Brian Thomas McDermott, 13, of Riverside, N.J., could be seen briefly with hands raised in prayer. He was eliminated after misspelling "fanfaronade.''

The youngsters, aged 9 to 15, wrestled differently with the ordeal of spelling before a crowd and television cameras in a large hotel ballroom.

One of the most unmistakable on Wednesday was Rebecca, the winner. Her style eased the tension for some and added to it for others.

The 13-year-old from Brooklyn played cat and mouse with words, asking questions about their origins in a way that suggested she knew the spelling all along. Then she spelled slowly, deliberately, letter by drawn-out letter, reaching a crescendo as if she was singing "The Star-Spangled Banner.''

That's how she did it with "sesquicentennial,'' her first task Wednesday.

After belting out the long word, which means 150th anniversary, Rebecca flailed her arms in glee and returned to the rows of seated contestants who still were in the game. The home-schooled youngster stayed in the running by later spelling "inducement'' and "prejudicial.''

Today, she spelled "vaporetto'' and then "bivouac'' "that is not `p' but is `b.''' Feeling a little under the weather, she was allowed to take a seat offstage between spellings.

Others coped with the strain by using humor, sometimes in a wise-guy vein. Others got on with the job of spelling difficult words, the strain obvious in their voices and knitted brows. For others, it meant an urge to visit the restroom so irresistible for one that he made the request to be excused while standing at the microphone in front of a ballroom full of onlookers.

For some, the humor came gently.

Alex Carter, 12, of South Charleston, W.Va., teased the pronouncers the people who read the words to be spelled asking for the "etymology, please,'' a permissible request, then joking, "spelling, please.'' He got the word, "oneiric'' on his own. The word means relating to dreams.

He was finally bounced today after missing "turgescent.''

Chanoya Kidd, an 11-year-old from Trelawny, Jamaica, kept unfailingly polite throughout. "Could you repeat the word, sir?'' she asked the pronouncer today, sounding like young Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. "Thank you, sir,'' Chanoya said, when given the added information.

Chanoya, got her word, "claustrophobe.'' But when she missed "Buddhism,'' it was too much. She sobbed loudly on her way through a side door offstage.


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