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13-year-old Abaconian wins Spelling Bee

After 16 grueling rounds of competition yesterday, a 13-year-old male student of Forest Heights Academy, Abaco, emerged the winner of the 14th Annual Bahamas National Spelling Bee Competition.

Sujith Abhishek Swarna beat out 18 other contestants to be crowned the country’s spelling bee champ before a packed room in the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino, Cable Beach.

Decorticate was the word that propelled the eighth grade student to victory over his closest competitor, Samantha Marc, who placed second in the competition. Twelve-year-old Marc is a grade seven student of T. A. Thompson Junior High.

The spelling competition lasted three-and-a-half hours.

Swarna’s win allows him to go to Washington, D.C. to represent The Bahamas at the 2011 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee competition, to be held in May.

“I’m really happy and excited to go to Washington,”said a quiet Swarna following the competition.

Swarna, who appeared confident throughout the event, said his competitors gave him that extra push.

“I just tried to stay focused throughout the whole event. I listened carefully to all the words and remained calm. I knew that I could do it and I focused on that,”said Swarna, who is an honor roll student with a grade point average of 4.0.

Yesterday’s win marked the second year in a row a school student from Abaco walked away with the spelling bee crown.

Last year, nine-year-old Yelena Persaud took the top spot to claim the crown. She is the nation’s youngest contestant to ever walk away with the crown.

In preparation for the competition, Swarna said he studied for two hours per day, and on weekends put in special time to make sure that he would come out on top.

“I studied hard. I studied from the list that they gave us,”he said.

When asked about his game plan going into the international competition, Swarna said he plans to go through the dictionary and study the words.

His father Dr. Shirin Swarna said he will make sure that Sujith puts in the extra hours, to ensure that he does well at the international competition.

“He is a good boy, well-behaved and he is an excellent student. I have no doubt that he will do well,”said Dr. Swarna.

The Bahamas National Spelling Bee is the brainchild of veteran journalist Oswald T. Brown, who encouraged the Ministry of Education to become part of the international competition, which attracts nearly 300 students annually from countries including the United States, America Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, New Zealand and South Korea.

Since 1997 The Bahamas has been a participant in the competition. That year national champion Dominique Higgins went all the way to the fourth round before being eliminated.

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