To the theme from Chariots of Fire and the cheers of teachers and friends, a triumphant Ansun Sujoe entered the auditorium of his school Tuesday evening for the first time since the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals Thursday.
“Congratulations, Ansun Sujoe. We are so proud of you!” the signs declared at Bethesda Christian School.
Sujoe, 13, was crowned national co-champion after he and Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Corning, N.Y., dueled for 24 words until they exhausted the judges’ list.
Sujoe’s accomplishment was a point of great pride at Bethesda Christian. Teachers and students followed the competition closely last week.
Sujoe smiled widely Tuesday as the audience applauded. Videos depicting his journey to the national bee and his triumph were played. Haltom City Mayor Richard Hutchison read a proclamation in Sujoe’s honor.
Sujoe’s family lives in Fort Worth. Mayor Betsy Price sent a letter: “I’m very proud of you. … Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize.”
During a short question-and-answer session, Sujoe offered advice to others who want to become spelling whizzes.
“It takes a lot of determination to be in a spelling bee,” Sujoe said.
Study, not natural talent, makes a good speller, he said.
His faith also guides him. “I usually pray before starting a spelling bee,” Sujoe said. “I know God is with me.”
Sujoe is the first national winner from the Fort Worth regional bee since 1973. Samir Patel of Colleyville made it to the nationals five times, placing third in 2005.
Schoolmate Brandon Watanabe, 13, said everyone is proud of Sujoe.
“We knew he was really good at spelling,” Watanabe said. “Oh my gosh! He did it!”
The co-champions have several joint engagements scheduled. After a brief visit to their homes, they are off on a media tour, according to bee officials. On Thursday, they will appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live and “compete” in a bee in which Kimmel’s sidekick, Guillermo, is the pronouncer.