Timothy Bryant, 13, a student at Bay Shore Middle School,...

Timothy Bryant, 13, a student at Bay Shore Middle School, with his coach Susan Goldstein. Credit: Handout

The Scrabble coach at Bay Shore Middle School noticed something in Timothy Bryant two years ago. He was smart, eager to work and, perhaps most important, he was able to memorize unfamiliar words.

Those qualities paid off Saturday when Bryant and a partner bested nearly the entire field of 97 teams from the United States and Canada at the National School Scrabble Championship in Orlando, Fla.

Bryant and his partner, Kevin Rosenberg of New Rochelle, were runners-up to a team from Windham, N.H. They lost the championship, which is open to top youth players in fifth through eighth grades, 391-318 after six straight victories.

"We did a lot of really stupid things," said Bryant, who is 13 and in eighth grade. "It was my first time playing in such a high-pressure situation, but my opponent was very good."

Susan Goldstein, a speech therapist at Bay Shore Middle, started the school's Scrabble Club 10 years ago. Its weekly meeting now draws between 35 and 50 students.

"He's a very bright boy, and he was interested," said Goldstein, 59, who had three other students from the club at the championship. "He was motivated to play Scrabble well."

Timothy has memorized, by his own estimate, 3,000 obscure words. One, senarii, a type of Latin verse, came in handy in the semifinal. Not only did he and his partner use all their letters with senarii, but their opponents challenged the word and lost.

"That gave us confidence," he said.

Timothy's father, Barry Bryant, a pension funds consultant, said his son memorizes words tirelessly and practices by playing online. The amount of time he dedicates, Bryant said, is "incalculable."

"Every time we ask him to do anything, he's playing a game," he said teasingly. "It's a great excuse for getting out of anything that anybody asks you to do."

As a runner-up, Timothy Bryant splits a $5,000 prize with his partner. Barry Bryant said his son is interested in putting the money in the stock market and he's encouraging him to give it a try.

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