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Mo. 7th-Grader Wins Spelling Bee

June 1, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Speaking slowly but confidently, George Abraham Thampy of Maryland Heights, Mo., correctly spelled ``demarche″ _ a step or maneuver _ to win the 2000 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

The 12-year-old, who is schooled at home, tied for fourth in 1998 and finished in a third-place tie last year.

Fellow seventh-grader Sean Coney of Newark, Calif., misspelled ``apotropaic″ _ designed to avert evil. George then came through with ``propaedeutic,″ which means preparatory study or instruction, to survive the round and eliminate his final rival. That set the stage for him to get ``demarche″ right.

``It’s not really the cash prizes and the trophies. It was really the words,″ said George, explaining why he returned to the spelling bee for a third time.

First prize is $10,000, an encyclopedia set and a $1,000 savings bond.

Spelling is not George’s only talent: Last week, he placed second at the National Geography Bee, also in Washington. He won $15,000 in that contest.

Both the runner-up and the third-place finisher, 14-year-old Alison Miller of Niskayuna, N.Y., also are educated at home.

``What makes home schooling better is that Mom and Dad allow me to be flexible,″ George said. ``I can do something else like Latin.″

Alison misspelled ``venire″ (veniery) _ to draw qualified people as jurors _ in the 12th round.

In the next round, both Sean and George were on the market: Sean was given ``phrontistery,″ a place for thinking or study, while George got ``ditokous,″ producing two eggs or young at a time.

George then took the title in the 15th round of the 73rd national competition that began Wednesday with 248 contestants, ages 9 to 15.

Today’s championship rounds brought excitement and tension.

When official pronouncer Alex Cameron called out ``boutonniere,″ Samuel Pittman of Bakersfield, Calif., could not contain himself, clapping his hands excitedly.

``Oh, I’ve been waiting on this word!″ the 14-year-old said as the judges looked on with amusement. And he got it right, too.

It means a flower worn in a buttonhole.

He had barely escaped an earlier round, looking puzzled after getting ``naology″_ the study of sacred edifices. ``Naology?″ he repeated before sighing into the microphone. ``N-A-O-L-O-G-Y?″ he guessed.

``Yes!″ the eighth-grader said as he pumped his fist excitedly after the judges nodded. He dropped out in the sixth round after misspelling ``girandole,″ a radiating ornamental composition.

There also were tears on this final day.

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