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Spelling Bee Champ Has the Last Word

David Tidmarsh, 14, performs to the letter. His final challenge? 'Autochthonous.'

June 04, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A 14-year-old Indiana boy mastered "autochthonous" to win the National Spelling Bee on Thursday, besting 264 rivals, including one who fainted on stage but recovered to take second place.

David Tidmarsh covered his face with his hands, overwhelmed, after getting the winning word, which means indigenous. Moments earlier, he had hidden behind his placard, then lowered it to show tears in his eyes, after nailing "gaminerie" -- defined as an impudent or wisecracking spirit -- to make the 15th and final round.

"I was just hoping that I got a word I studied," David said. His chances were excellent -- he had spent months going through the dictionary.

David, an eighth-grader at the public Edison Intermediate Center in South Bend, won the top-prize package of $12,000 and an engraved cup from the bee, plus an additional $5,000, a $1,000 savings bond, encyclopedias and a reference library from other sponsors.

His path to victory traversed words such as "arete," "sophrosyne," and "serpiginous."

David, surrounded by the media after his win, was asked whether he was a better speller than President Bush. He smiled and said, "I think so."

And what about all that cash? "I might put it in a savings account or something," he said, adding, "I'll probably take a little and spend it at the mall."

In the end, he defeated Akshay Buddiga, a 13-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo., who had briefly collapsed on stage rounds earlier.

Within seconds of crumpling to the floor, Akshay stood up and, to the amazement of the judges, immediately started spelling his word: "alopecoid," which means fox-like.

After he received a standing ovation, he was led off stage for a medical check and returned for the next round.

The 77th Scripps bee began with at least 9 million children in local contests.

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