This story was originally published in Newsday on March 11, 2011
He won his first bee at age 4 and now sixth-grader Naman Shakrani is Long Island's top speller.
By successfully spelling "noctograph" - a writing instrument used by the blind - Naman yesterday earned a shot at the national competition.
"When I came up, I was like, please let me get an easy word," said Naman, 10, a student at W.T. Clarke Middle School in the East Meadow school district, after the grueling, nearly two-hour contest.
The top 21 spellers competed yesterday in the finals of Long Island's annual spelling bee, with the winner going to the National Bee in suburban Maryland June 1-2.
The finals, where students from Nassau and Suffolk counties in grades 4-8 competed, was held at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School. Nine contenders were only in the fourth or fifth grade, organizers said.
Coming in second was Dana Chiueh, a fourth-grader from William Sidney Mount Elementary School in Stony Brook, who stumbled on the word "factotum."
Dana, 9, said she'd be back again to compete next year.
When given their words, spellers paused, gathered their breaths, asked for definitions and some feigned writing on their palms as they tackled words such as obsequious, colloquial and etymology. A ring of the bell meant a misspelled word and the student had to leave the auditorium stage.
After 10 rounds, only Naman was left spelling.
His father, Kamlesh Shakrani, said Naman studied from a 2,600-page dictionary, finding the hardest word on the page and then memorizing it.
"I feel at the top of the world right now," said Shakrani, who hugged his son after the victory.
Naman, of East Meadow, and two other students did so well at his school's spelling bee that teachers there ran out of words and had to hold a second bee a few days later with more words. He eventually won.
Naman also enjoys bowling and reading science fiction, and said he visualizes the words in his head, where "there's like an LCD screen." He plans to kick up his studying for the national contest.
The local bee was sponsored by the Long Island Jewish World. Contestants had won bees at their local schools and then more than 100 spellers completed a written test last month to be in the finals.
The caliber of spelling "is equal to if not greater than sport competition," said Jerome Lippman, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Long Island Jewish World. "An excellent speller is quite successful in whatever sphere of professionalism the child enters into."
Can you use it in a sentence?
The final words given in last night's Long Island Spelling Bee:
a small bus that carries passengers over a regular route on a flexible schedule
to appropriate wrongfully and often by a breach of trust
a lettuce that belongs to a cultivar of garden lettuce and has long, crisp leaves and columnar heads
French plain-chant, literally, plain song
a clouding of the lens of the eye or of its surrounding transparent membrane that obstructs the passage of light
to condemn strongly as unworthy, unacceptable, or evil
a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
to infuse with the qualities or values of yuppies
to reflect on carefully
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
THE WINNING WORD...
a writing instrument used by the blind