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Tidmarsh spells "autochthonous" for victory

WASHINGTON -- A 14-year-old Indiana boy mastered
"autochthonous" to win the National Spelling Bee Thursday,
outdueling 264 rivals for the title.

David Tidmarsh covered his face with his hands, overwhelmed by
the win. Moments earlier, he had hid himself behind his placard,
then lowered it to show tears in his eyes, after nailing
"gaminerie" to make the final round.

"I was just hoping that I got a word I studied," Tidmarsh
said. His chances were excellent -- he spent months going through
the dictionary.

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 bonds
and a reference library from other sponsors. David, an
eighth-grader at Edison Intermediate Center, is now one of 77
people in the bee's history to emerge as the finest in the field.

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

In the end, he defeated Akshay Buddiga, a 13-year-old from
Colorado Springs, Colo., who had collapsed on stage rounds earlier
from lightheadedness but returned to almost win.

Within a few seconds of his collapse, Akshay gathered himself,
stood up and, to the amazement of the judges, immediately started
spelling his word: "alopecoid."

He got it perfectly, drawing a standing ovation. Akshay went
back to his chair, looking uncomfortable, when a Bee employee came
to escort him off stage for a quick medical checkup.

As the crowd buzzed and ESPN's national television audience
watched, the next speller approached the microphone, and the
competition resumed.

Akshay, from Colorado Springs, returned for the next round,
looking shaky, and correctly spelled "lyophilize." His big
brother, Pratyush, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee two years
ago.

At the start of the third and final day of the bee, 46 children
were still in the running. But in the fifth round, 20 spellers were
led off stage after mistakes. Sixth-round words eliminated 11 more,
cutting the field to 15.

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

Courtesy reigns at the bee. Every spelling, right or wrong,
brought strong applause, and some of those on stage showed they
were pulling for their competitors. Each mistake drew a collective
groan from the audience.

For the first time, spellers faced a strict time limit per word
of two minutes, followed by a final 30-second period with a
countdown clock, although they could claim one minute of bonus time
once during the competition.

Among those eliminated was 10-year-old Samir Patel, who was
considered a favorite and had been deemed a force to be reckoned
with by last year's winner, Sai Gunturi. Samir, who finished tied
for third in 2003, tried to break down "corposant," at one point
asking the pronouncers, "Am I on the right track?'

But the fifth-grader from Colleyville, Texas, missed it by two
letters.

The spellers range in age from nine to 15, and from grades four
to eight.