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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • 'A dream come true': Hathwar wins Scripps National Spelling Bee

  • For a few tense minutes, it looked like the dream was over for Sriram Hathwar.
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  • For a few tense minutes, it looked like the dream was over for Sriram Hathwar.
    The Painted Post teenager misspelled “corpsbruder” in Round 16 of the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had come down to an electrifying one-on-one duel with Ansun Sujoe, a 13-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas.
    Sujoe was poised to clinch it by spelling his next word correctly, but he missed “antigropelos,” so Hathwar got a reprieve and the duel continued.
    It finally ended in Round 22, not because Hathwar or Sujoe missed a word, but because they had burned through the 25 words on the championship round word list.
    So when Hathwar got “stichomythia” and Sujoe answered with “feuilleton” in Round 22, they were declared co-national champions.
    They hoisted the trophy aloft as they were showered with confetti, cameras flashing and family members celebrating around them.
    “It’s a dream come true,” Hathwar told ESPN’s Kaylee Hartung on stage. “Every night I used to think about winning the trophy - and now it’s come true.”
    Hathwar, who won it all in his fifth appearance in the National Spelling Bee – and final year of eligibility – said he had no problem sharing the trophy with Sujoe.
    “I think we both know that the competition is against the dictionary, not against each other,” Hathwar said graciously. “I’m happy to share this trophy with him.”
    Hathwar and Sujoe will each get a trophy and a $30,000 prize.
    Hathwar, 14, an eighth-grader at Corning’s Alternative School for Math and Science, is the son of Jagadeesh and Roopa Hathwar, both Corning physicians. He was sponsored by the Corning Rotary Club.
    Reached shortly after her son’s victory, Roopa Hathwar said Sriram was still posing for pictures with the trophy and giving interviews to national media outlets, and that she expected the next few days to be a “whirlwind.” She wasn’t sure when the family would return to Corning.
    It was the first time since 1962 that two spellers have been declared co-champions and only the fourth time ever. Hathwar is the first champion from upstate New York since Tim Kneale of Syracuse won in 1973.
    Hathwar’s quest to win the National Spelling Bee began in 2008, when he was the youngest contestant in the history of the National Spelling Bee as an 8-year-old second-grader, a record that has since been broken.
    He didn’t get past the preliminaries that year, but he qualified again in 2009 and finished 37th. He made it again in 2011 when he tied for sixth place, and again in 2013, when he finished third.
    Page 2 of 2 - This year, he posted a cumulative score of 70 out of a possible 72 points in the preliminaries and semifinals to advance to Thursday night’s finals. Both the prelims and semis included a computer test with spelling and multiple-choice vocabulary, as well as two rounds of oral spelling on stage.
    Hathwar was anointed by ESPN as the odds-on favorite, but he took it all in stride, calling his status as favorite “a pretty good feeling” in a backstage interview.
    When he took the stage Thursday night, his experience showed. He seemed poised and confident, often joking with Dr. Jacques Bailly, the bee’s official pronouncer.  His only stumble came in Round 16 on “corpsbruder,” which he spelled “korbruiter.”
    The finals were one-on-one with Sujoe for the final seven rounds, after third-place finisher Gokul Venkatachalam, 13, of Chesterfield, Md., bowed out.
    The list of on-stage words spelled correctly by Hathwar during the three-day event included “Backstein,” “plumbeous,” “favus,” and “quatrefoil” in the prelims and semis.
    In the finals, he aced “quatrefoil,” “detraque,” “encastage,” “hexerei,” “criollismo,” “bagwyn,” “semmel,” “lamentabile,” “nocifensor,” “characin,” “skandhas,” “feijoada,” “sdrucciola,” “thymelici,” “encaenia,” and “stichomythia.”
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