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Persistent Dallas Youth Wins Bee

May 30, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A 13-year-old eighth-grader from Dallas spelled "pococurante" correctly to win the 76th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on Thursday.

It was Sai Gunturi's fourth time in the competition.

"I studied it," a beaming Sai said of the word after winning the contest, $12,000 and other prizes. "That's why I was kind of laughing." The word means indifferent or apathetic.

Sai plays the violin and studies Indian classical music. His father, Sarma, is a chemical engineer and his mother, Lakshmi, is a homemaker.

Last year, Sai tied for seventh place. He tied for 16th place in 2001 and tied for 32nd place in 2000. His sister Nivedita tied for eighth place in 1997.

"Actually, I started studying in fourth grade and then I guess it's kind of like cumulative study all the way up to here," he said after surviving the 15-round contest by spelling such words as "rhathymia" and "voussoir."

Evelyn Blacklock, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who is home-schooled in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., was the runner-up.

Earlier Thursday, Evelyn not only had to spell one of her words, but got to fully experience its meaning.

She stepped to the microphone at the sound of "tenebrosity," which means darkness, and began to question the announcer about its meaning and origins.

An unspoken answer came when the stage mysteriously went dark.

Unfazed, Evelyn lifted the numbered yellow square hanging from her neck and scribbled on the back of it with her finger before spelling, slowly and correctly, as the hotel ballroom's lights crept back on.

She later agonized over "anaphylaxis," a hypersensitivity caused by contact with a sensitizing agent, and "ganache," a chocolate mixture used in baking, to advance another round.

In taped remarks, Education Secretary Rod Paige congratulated the 84 competitors who were still standing when the competition resumed Thursday, telling them they should be proud of making it to the finals.

"No matter whether you go out in the first round or become the next champ, your presence here spells only one thing," Paige said, adding, "S-u-c-c-e-s-s."

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