WASHINGTON -- Thursday was a stressful day for 12-year-old Tim Ruiter. He started the day as one of 41 semifinalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. By 10 p.m. tonight, the competition was down to just three competitors-- and Tim was one of them.
The Centreville, Va., native spelled 12 words right in the finals, before one word finally got the better of him. That word: maecenas. (In case you were wondering, maecenas is a generous patron, especially of literature or art.) Tim tied for second place.
Among the words he successfully conquered: "clogwyn," "radiomimetic," "echard," "jacqueminot," and "oriflamme." (By the way, Microsoft Word didn't even know four of these words existed.)
Vicky Ruiter says her son, who is homeschooled, has immersed himself in spelling. She finds stacks of index cards all over the house. "I'm unbelievably proud," she told News4 Thursday night, before the final round. "No matter what happens tonight, I don't think we could possibly be more proud of him."
Tim was taking the pressure in stride; "I don't mind how I do," he said before the final round; "it's just really neat to be here."
Ruiter is a big fan of science fiction, Lord of the Rings, Legos... and words, apparently. He hopes to attend M.I.T. one day, and become a chemical engineer.
The winner, 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar of Kansas, walked away with more than $40,000 in cash and prizes, and a trophy that's almost as big as she is.
A record 293 participants qualified to participate this year.
There was a pleasant surprise in this year's bee: the sentences used by pronouncers to put words into context were jokes: "While Lena's geusioleptic cooking wowed her boyfriend, what really melted his heart was that she won the National Spelling Bee." That was the sentence for a word that describes flavorful food.