WASHINGTON (AP) – David Tidmarsh has watched “Spellbound,” the documentary about the National Spelling Bee, at least 10 times. This year, just as the movie’s tagline says, he got the last word.

It was “autochthonous,” meaning “indigenous,” the word David spelled to win the 77th Scripps bee on Thursday, outdueling 264 rivals, including the second-place finalist who returned from a scary collapse on stage. David had come prepared – the word was on a practice list of about 10,000 he had compiled, and he had also studied a dictionary for months.

Asked by a television reporter whether his win had as good an ending as Hollywood could come up with, David, 14, said, “Even better.”

David, a public school eighth-grader from South Bend, Ind., covered his face when he won, overwhelmed. Moments earlier, he had hid himself behind his placard, then lowered it to show tears in his eyes, after nailing “gaminerie” to make the 15th and final round. The word means “wisecracking spirit.”

“I never actually thought about what it would be like to win. I guess I just couldn’t believe it. It was just really surreal,” David said Friday on the CBS program “The Early Show.”

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

His path to victory went through words such as “arete,” “sophrosyne,” “sumpsimus” and “serpiginous.”

So what about all that cash he won? “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 onstage rounds earlier.

Within seconds of going down, Akshay stood up and, to the amazement of the judges, immediately started spelling his word: “alopecoid,” which means “like a fox.” He got it perfectly, drawing a standing ovation. He was led offstage for a medical check and returned for the next round.

Akshay made it into the final twosome while sitting on a chair at the microphone, looking weak, his questions to the judges barely loud enough to hear.

“To me, that’s what you call grit,” said Paige Kimble, the bee director. “It was an extraordinary circumstance.”

Afterward, Akshay’s family said he would be fine but needed time to recover.

Anticipation grew as the field dropped from 26 to 15 to seven to five to three. The final few students got enormous hugs from their parents, who had been given special seating on stage.

The field began with 265 spellers who had emerged from at least 9 million children who participated in local bees.



Associated Press writer Aparna H. Kumar contributed to this story.



On the Net:

Scripps National Spelling Bee: http://www.spellingbee.com

AP-ES-06-04-04 0837EDT



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