An 11-year-old boy from Southern California won Saturday?s state spelling championship at Sonoma State University after correctly spelling the word sacrosanct.
Easy, you say?
Well, just before that he spelled ichthyologist, oleaginous, nictitate and nyctalopia. And that?s just a sampling.
Quinn, a sixth-grader at Washington Elementary School in Santa Barbara, took top prize at the 29th annual California State Elementary Spelling Championship, beating out 10-year-old Savitri Asokan, a fifth-grader from Roseville.
To her credit, Savitri correctly spelled words such as pharmaceutical and ebullient. But it was ichthyologist that dashed her hopes for the state title.
Top area finisher was Arthur Wilkie of Lake County, a sixth-grader at Lucerne Elementary School, part of the 64-student contingent representing 32 counties in the state competition.
One by one, the young competitors fell in the earlier rounds to words like leviathan, nefarious, staccato, dietetics and zephyr.
They walked off the stage of Evert B. Person Theatre, some proudly raising their hands in the air while others left the building, dejected, their parents trying their best to console them during the four-hour spelling test.
But for the most part the event was fun and exciting.
?I feel like I want to go home,? said Quinn, smiling after being named champion.
The Santa Barbara boy was accompanied by his mother, father and older sister, Brenna Hensley, who last Saturday came in second in the California State Junior High Spelling Bee Championship in San Rafael.
This year?s competition, sponsored by the California School Employee Association, had a country theme. Horse-shaped mylar balloons lined the walls of the theater and the stage backdrop depicted sundown on the open plain.
On the stage was a theatrical set of Buzzard?s Gulch, which gave the competition a Wild West feel that seemed ideal, especially for the final shootout between Quinn and Savitri.
At this point, an complex array rules gave spellers the chance to correct each other?s mistakes and even comeback from an incorrect answer.
They both faltered on cachinnate. But he got nyctalopia right, as well as oleaginous, after she got it wrong. He could have won with trichotillomania, but he stumbled, understandably.
She got pharmaceutical, he landed flummoxed; she nailed ebullient and he aced nictitate. But both got thoracic wrong. Next, both fumbled with vitiate before he went on to win with ichthyologist and sacrosanct.
Quinn has participated in the past three state competitions, finishing second last year and fourth the year before that.
His secret to success?
Like other participants, Quinn described a rigorous regimen of spelling lists and reading. Lots of reading.
?I read a lot, and there you find lots of words that other people don?t know about,? he said.
Quinn was awarded a $1,000 U.S. savings bond and a trophy. A championship wall clock to be mounted for a year at his school will likely ensure his celebrity among classmates.
Savitri won a $500 U.S. savings bond for second place. Third place and a $250 savings bond went to Carina Kan, 11, a sixth-grader at Palos Verdes Intermediate School in Palos Verdes Estates in Los Angeles County.
Fourth, fifth and six places landed $100 savings bonds. Fifth place winner Wilkie, who said he loves reading the newspaper and is fluent in Spanish, his mother?s native language, said he was thrilled to be among the prize winners.