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Home-Schooled Brooklyn Teenager Exclaims 'Euonym' to Win Bee

May 30, 1997| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Convinced she was about to win the National Spelling Bee, 13-year-old Rebecca Sealfon shouted each letter of her last word into the microphone "e-u-o-n-y-m" and raised her arms high.

"Yeah!" she screamed Thursday before balancing the trophy cup atop her head. The home-schooled teenager from Brooklyn, N.Y., placed eighth in the Scripps Howard-sponsored contest last year, but this year she is the champ.

"I knew I could figure it out," Rebecca said about "euonym," defined as an appropriate name for a person, place or thing.

She won $5,000--which she plans to save for college--books and other prizes, including a laptop computer. Prem Murthy Trivedi, 11, of Howell, N.J., earned $4,000 for second place, and Sudheer Potru, 13, of Beverly Hills, Mich., won $2,500 for third.

"This was incredible luck," Rebecca said. "There were words I did not know in every round."

Rebecca was so nervous that she asked to wait her turn off the stage. But she spelled 22 words correctly, including "vaporetto," a small steamboat; "hippogriff," a legendary animal; and "bivouac," a temporary camp. Her first challenge was "sesquicentennial."

Some of the 245 contestants spelled words by syllables. But Rebecca spelled letter by letter, often stopping after each one to cup her hands over her mouth. "I was thinking what letter was next and I was whispering the letter to myself," she explained.

For the last nine rounds, she battled only Prem, who was competing in the national spelling bee for the third time. Prem lost after he added an extra "l" to the word "cortile," a courtyard.

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