Ansun Sujoe spent Friday morning pinching himself.
The Fort Worth teen still couldn’t believe his new status as the co-champion of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.
“I”m still pretty shocked that this actually happened,” said Sujoe, who had been up since 5 a.m. doing media interviews with the likes of NBC and CNN. “I tried to sleep, but I could only get three hours.”
Sujoe, 13, was crowned co-champion after he and Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Corning, N.Y., matched each other for 24 words.
The co-champions were the last 2 of 12 finalists in the event that was televised live on ESPN2. The last word Sujoe had to spell was feuilleton. Once he spelled it correctly, he was named co-champion because the judges had used up the words on the championship list. It was the first set of co-champions since 1962.
“I feel pretty relieved,” Sujoe said when reached by telephone Friday morning. “Shocked. It’s quite unbelievable.”
The co-champions’ reactions epitomized the spirit of camaraderie and good sportsmanship.
“The spelling bee is not really about beating other people,” said Sujoe, who who will start the eighth grade next fall at Bethesda Christian School. “It’s like a battle against words. We are not really against each other, but against the dictionary.”
The winners each take home $33,000 in cash and a trophy.
Sujoe will be juggling engagements and media interviews tied to the bee in upcoming days, his parents said. His engagements include trips to in New York City and Los Angeles.
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” said Sujoe Bose, Ansun’s father.
Sujoe said he owes much credit to his family.
“They helped me to study,” Sujoe said. “They helped to keep me on track. God helped me too.”
The pride of Bethesda
Sujoe is the last winner from Fort Worth since Barrie Trinkle won the national bee in 1973. Samir Patel of Colleyville made it to the nationals five times, placing third in 2005.
Sujoe’s accomplishment was a point of great pride at Bethesda Christian, where teachers and students followed the competition Thursday night at a watch party.
On Friday, the school’s website stated proudly: “BCS Student Earns National Spelling Bee Co-Champion Title.”
“I am thrilled,” said Donna Hores, Sujoe’s English teacher. “Super thrilled about what he did and what he accomplished.”
Una Davis,Sujoe’s science teacher, said she has seen how the spelling ability helps in the classroom. Often, Sujoe is able to understand the root of science terms because he knows Latin and Greek origins. She said he learns words with a purpose.
“He likes to see them come alive,” Davis said.
Teachers said not only was Sujoe’s spelling ability on national display, but his humbleness and character was also apparent. Sujoe is known as a gracious student who doesn’t blurt out answers even when he knows them.
“Academics and character,” said James Parish, Sujoe’s history teacher. “He really exhibits both of those.”
Hores said Sujoe pulled her aside months ago to explain his goal was to make it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She responded that he needed to work hard.
“He was diligent in his study,” Hores said, adding that his effort can be an example to all students. “Set a goal. Go for it. Give it your best shot and see what happens.”
Sujoe said he prepped for years for the competition.
“I’ve been interested in the spelling bee since the second grade,” Ansun said, explaining that he started studying words in the third grade.
Sujoe’s upcoming plans include helping his little sister — who will be in third grade next school year — because she has expressed interest in competing.
“I’m going to spend some time coaching her,” he said.
Sujoe said he can also spend more time gearing up for math competitions, which are another of his endeavors.
“Math is my favorite subject in school,” Sujoe said.
Sujoe, who wants to study engineering or computer science in college, said he has already been preparing for college entrance exams.
Sujoe plays the piano, bassoon and guitar. He likes soccer and basketball. Now, that he won’t be practicing for spelling bees, he said he might have time to play sports.
“I might just join a team this year,” he said.