Spell-Check: Boy's Catch Saves a Spot in Spelling Bee A 12-year-old California boy is responsible for righting an error made in judging the finals of the National Spelling Bee contest. When Lucas Brown, a seventh-grader from Poway, Calif., realized the judges had mistakenly eliminated a contestant in round eight, he spoke up -- and Saryn Hooks returned to the competition.
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Spell-Check: Boy's Catch Saves a Spot in Spelling Bee

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Spell-Check: Boy's Catch Saves a Spot in Spelling Bee

Spell-Check: Boy's Catch Saves a Spot in Spelling Bee

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Drama was spelled H-E-C-H-S-H-E-R last night at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

(Soundbite of spelling bee)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: Hechsher.

Ms. SARYN HOOKS: Hechsher?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: Hechsher.

Ms. HOOKS: Hechsher, okay, definition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: Hechsher is a rabbinical endorsement or a certification especially of food products that conform with traditional Jewish dietary laws. Hechsher.

Ms. HOOKS: Hechsher.

SIEGEL: 14-year-old Saryn Hooks from North Carolina nailed the spelling in the eighth round, but the judges didn't know it. They eliminated Saryn and the round continued. But about 12 minutes later, in one of the most remarkable turnabouts in the history of organized competitive spelling, Saryn was back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2: Before we begin Round 9, Speller number 180, Saryn Hooks, you probably saw some hesitation on the judges part. We made a mistake. You spelled the word correctly. Would you please take …

(Soundbite of audience cheering)

SIEGEL: Saryn Hooks ended last night's bee in third place, thanks in large part, to the brother of another contestant. Lucas Brown, a seventh grader from Poway, California, was in Washington last night to watch his sister, Julie. But even after his sister's elimination in Round 5, Lucas kept watching and comparing spellings on his laptop computer.

Mr. LUCAS BROWN (Student from Poway, California): I was following along on the software edition of the authority that they use for the spelling bee. That's, according to my dad, the full name's about a foot and a half long, something like Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary Third New International Version, Copyright 2002, or something like that.

SIEGEL: But you had this up on your laptop?

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: Yeah, they've got a software edition of it, so I just typed in her spelling and it turned out that her spelling was correct.

SIEGEL: The word in question was Hechsher and they rang the bell on her.

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: Yeah, somehow an extra c had snuck into the word.

SIEGEL: What'd you do?

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: I started telling my family, and it took my dad a while to catch on to that. And then he took the laptop and tried to find out the right authorities to notify.

SIEGEL: Now, we should say we're joined by David Brown, your father, and by taking this to you, Mr. Brown, Lucas was actually doing exactly the right thing under the rules of the spelling bee, as I understand it.

Mr. DAVID BROWN (Father of Lucas Brown): Imagine that.

SIEGEL: I won't go any farther with that. But a parent has unique standing to appeal a judgment of the chair in a spelling bee, I gather.

Mr. DAVID BROWN: Yes, and I'm no expert on the rules but as I recall, that the only people who have a standing to make an appeal would be the speller's parents or the sponsor. When I finally realized that Lucas was not being a little misbehaving boy in the middle of the auditorium…

SIEGEL: He was keeping the whole country honest.

Mr. DAVID BROWN: Yeah, that he was really onto it, that somebody had to do something and he didn't know what.

SIEGEL: And what happened?

Mr. DAVID BROWN: That first response was, are you a parent, are you the sponsor, kind of thing. And then we raised the point, you know, it's a catch 22. The parents are up on stage, we don't know who the sponsor is, but a mistake has been made. And they did the right thing. They realized they had made an error and corrected it.

SIEGEL: Well, the speller in question, Saryn Hooks, her bronze medal finish there was thanks to you. You got her reinstated, Lucas, this was your doing.

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: Um-hmm.

SIEGEL: Did you talk to her afterwards about this?

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: She thanked you for doing this?

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: Um-hmm.

SIEGEL: And what did you say?

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: I said, you're welcome.

SIEGEL: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Well Lucas, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. LUCAS BROWN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's Lucas Brown, along with his father, David Brown. Lucas recognized the judges mistake in last night's national spelling bee.

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