After 20 long rounds, Pennsylvania girl wins spelling bee

McClatchy NewspapersJune 3, 2011 

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In the end, 14-year-old Sukanya Roy of Scranton, Pa., with her penchant for writing invisible words on her palm, emerged the victor of the late-night showdown at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Her word: cymotrichous, meaning having the hair wavy.

"It's just amazing. It's hard to find the words," said Roy, who has spent the last three days working her way through an impressively complicated set of words with origins from around the globe.

The competition went on and on. At one point, the five remaining students — Laura Newcombe of Toronto, Dakota Jones of Las Vegas, Arvind Mahankali of New York, Joanna Ye of Harrisburg, Pa., and Roy correctly spelled 20 words in a row.

After Jones dropped out in the 15th round and Mahankali and Ye stumbled in the 17th, and Newcombe was tripped up in the 19th by sorites, a class of paradoxical arguments.

That left Roy needing to succeed in the 19th round — which she did with periscii, those who live within a polar circle whose shadows, during some summer days, will move entirely round, falling toward every point of the compass — and then with the final word in the 20th.

A three-time competitor at the bee, Roy tied for 12th in 2009 and 20th in 2010.

In earlier rounds, one by one other Bee hopefuls were ultimately defeated by such polysyllabic tongue-twisters as sciamachy, a word that means fighting with a shadow or imaginary enemy. The Scripps National Spelling Bee hosted 275 spellers this year from across the country and the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Thirteen spellers competed in the finals round Thursday night, live on ESPN, in hopes of winning $30,000 among other prizes.

The director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the 1981 champ, Paige Pipkin Kimble, said the competition gives academically precocious children a chance to shine.

"They want to be stars and this program provides a fabulous opportunity not only for children to learn and excel," Kimble said. "But be recognized for their talents."

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