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Spelling Bee Contestant Recalls Experience

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Spelling Bee Contestant Recalls Experience

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Spelling Bee Contestant Recalls Experience

Spelling Bee Contestant Recalls Experience

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Kansas 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar won the National Spelling Bee with a strong confident presence at the mic. But there was a big sigh from the audience when another 13-year-old, Kennyi Aouad of Indiana, went out in the final minutes. Aouad's jovial manner makes him easy to like. He finished fifth, dropping out on the word Palatschinken, a kind of pancake. Kennyi talks about the experience.


Last night, Laodicean was the winning word at the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship for 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas. But many of those watching the broadcast may have had their hearts captured by another 13-year-old, the ebullient Kennyi Aouad from Terre Haute, Indiana.

Unidentified Man #1: Gyascutus.

Mr. KENNYI AOUAD: Gyascutus. May I have the origin, please?

Unidentified Man #1: It's unknown.

Mr. AOUAD: Eh, all right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AOUAD: May I have it used in sentence, please?

BLOCK: Kennyi joked, mugged for the camera, bantered with the spelling bee pronouncer and looked like he was having a great time all around. He finished fifth. And Kennyi Aouad is here in our studios. Kennyi, congratulations, you did great.

Mr. AOUAD: Thank you.

BLOCK: And I have to say, you had me last night from the word scilicet. You knew it was an adverb and you knew what it meant. What does it mean?

Mr. AOUAD: Namely. That is to say.

BLOCK: Namely. How did you know that?

Mr. AOUAD: 'Cause I looked the word one time, and I have a photographic memory.

BLOCK: You have a photographic memory.

Mr. AOUAD: Yes.

BLOCK: No kidding. Well, that would help in a spelling bee. You - no. You're shaking your head no. You're just joking.

Mr. AOUAD: No, I was actually serious. I'm not kidding. I have a photographic memory.

BLOCK: How do you study? What's your method for preparing for a spelling bee?

Mr. AOUAD: My method for studying is coach mom often…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You just looked at your mom inside the studio.

Mr. AOUAD: Okay, coach mom often helps me by quizzing me over words I study every day - two to three hours per day.

BLOCK: Two to three hours a day every day.

Mr. AOUAD: Mm-hmm. And that's on weekdays. You should see me during weekends.

BLOCK: I want to play some tapes that has made you a hit on YouTube. Kennyi, you know what's coming.

Mr. AOUAD: Go ahead. Yeah.

BLOCK: This is from 2007. So you were just - you were 11 years old at the time in the spelling bee.

Unidentified Man #2: Sardoodledom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AOUAD: Sardoodledom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: That sounds about right. Sardoodledom.

Mr. AOUAD: Sardoodle…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Kennyi, two years later, and you're still laughing right now.

Mr. AOUAD: Yeah. It's always funny when we look back on our - what we used to be back then.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. AOUAD: I was a little goofball.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You were a little goofball, but you spelled it right.

Mr. AOUAD: Yeah, educated guess.

BLOCK: Educated guess, okay. Well, last night, you breezed through on all kinds of stuff. What were your other words? You had grisaille.

Mr. AOUAD: Yup, grisaille, gyascutus.

BLOCK: Hypallage?

Mr. AOUAD: Hypallage.

BLOCK: Hypallage.

Mr. AOUAD: Yeah.

BLOCK: Sorry. And then trouble came with the word palatschinken.

Mr. AOUAD: Didn't study that word.

BLOCK: Did not study that word.

Mr. AOUAD: Nope.

BLOCK: So you knew right away you hadn't seen it.

Mr. AOUAD: Yeah, and I knew right away I was going to misspell it.

BLOCK: Really?

Mr. AOUAD: Yes.

BLOCK: How do you know?

Mr. AOUAD: I never heard the word, and I just knew the end was coming for me. But then again, I knew I tried my best. So I was proud anyway.

BLOCK: So palatschinken, they described it as a thin egg batter pancake stuffed with jam. And then when you asked them the origin, he said Latin to Hungarian to Romanian to German to English. And at that point, I figure you must be thinking, well, that's no help at all, right?

Mr. AOUAD: Seriously, it wasn't helpful.

(Soundbite of spelling bee)

Mr. AOUAD: Yeah, palatschinken. Let's see. Palatschinken, P-A-L-L-A-C-H-I-N-K-I-N, Palatschinken? Hmm, all right. I tried my best.

(Soundbite of awing and applause)

Mr. AOUAD: It's all right. It's all right.

BLOCK: Kennyi, this is an amazing moment. You can hear everybody there, how disappointed they were for you and how much they were pulling for you. You seemed like you were fine, even though I bet you weren't quite fine.

Mr. AOUAD: True.

BLOCK: What was going on in your mind?

Mr. AOUAD: Honestly, I wanted to win that trophy 'cause I can picture myself holding that trophy with one hand. I was slightly disappointed, but then again, you knew I did my best. I even said it.

BLOCK: Well, Kennyi Aouad, congratulations. You did so great and thanks for coming in. It's great to meet you.

Mr. AOUAD: Thank you. It's a pleasure meeting you.

BLOCK: And thanks to mom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AOUAD: Coach mom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: That's 13-year-old Kennyi Aouad of Terre Haute, Indiana, who tied for fifth place yesterday in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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