Thirteen-year-old Ansun Sujoe put spring break on hold to study about 30,000 words.
The drills paid off. Ansun emerged Wednesday as grand champion of the regional spelling bee competition at Texas Christian University.
The winning word was decedent, a noun that refers to someone who is dead.
Ansun, a seventh-grade student at Bethesda Christian School, spelled it correctly in the championship round. The victory gives him his second chance to compete in the national spelling bee, which is later this year in the Washington, D.C., area.
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“Right now, I feel relieved to be going back to nationals again — to experience that again,” he said. “I feel really happy that all my hard work has paid off.”
The runner-up was 12-year-old Benjamin Benjadol, a seventh-grade student a Central Junior High in the HEB school district.
The competition started Wednesday with 25 participants representing schools across North Texas, including the Fort Worth, Weatherford, Mansfield, Arlington and Hurst-Euless-Bedford districts. Spellers worked for the chance to compete at the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 27-29.
The regional competition was at TCU’s Brown-Lupton University Union. It is sponsored by the Star-Telegram and TCU’s Center for Public Education.
The spellers were welcomed to the competition by Mary Patton, dean of TCU’s College of Education and Jim Witt, senior vice president and executive editor of the Star-Telegram.
“All of you are winners,” Witt said. “I want everyone to go out and have fun.”
Jan Lacina, associate dean of graduate studies and professor in the College of Education, said the competition began with students at 471 schools trying to make it to regionals. Spellers represent public, private, parochial, charter and home schools.
Five of the regional contestants were returning area champions, some back for a second or third time.
“This is a once a year type of opportunity for these students, who have studied all year long to be here,” Lacina said.
Spellers prepared in different ways. Many used study guides to learn the spelling and origin of different words.
“We have some kids who like to study the dictionary as well,” Lacina said.
Competitors can ask for the origin of a word, an example of how it is used in a sentence and pronunciation. Many spellers used their hands or competition tags to spell words with their fingers as they competed.
“It helps to visualize and you can get a better understanding of the word. You know you won’t miss it carelessly,” Ansun said.
The regional competition went to 18 rounds. In the end, the contest was between Ansun and Benjamin, who were also last year’s champion and runner up, respectively.
Benjamin was stumped by the word, operosity. That word means in the state or quality of being industrious or busy, according to thefreedictionary.com.
As the winner of the bee, Ansun receives a trophy, the opportunity to audit a TCU course, an expense-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online and the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award.
But for him, the big prize is the opportunity to compete at nationals again. He said that last year he was just a point from making it to semifinals.
“This year I want to make it to semifinals and maybe even go further,” he said.
Angel Sujoe said her son is headed to two math competitions before starting to drill for the nationals. Even though Ansun has a passion for words, his favorite subject is math, his mother said.
The family also hopes to do some bowling, a favorite sport of Ansun’s, before he competes again. Preparing for the regional spelling competition involved many hours of study.
“He worked, worked, worked,” she said.