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Southern Tier Speller Finishes 3rd at National Bee

5:26 PM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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By Brian Tumulty
Gannett Washington Bureau

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - Even Egyptian, Romanian and German words couldn't derail Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post as he finished third in the finals of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.

Sriram did even better than his sixth place finish at the national competition two years ago.

It was a Greek word - "ptyalagogue'' - that kept him from finishing higher this time.

This year's winner was Arvind Mahankali, an eighth-grader at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in the Bayside section of Queens. The New York City resident won by correctly spelling "knaidel."

Most of the night went smoothly for Sriram, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at the Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning.
"I think it was a good run overall,'' he said afterward, adding that his mind "just went blank'' on the final word he missed.

Sriram said he knew the roots of all the words he had earlier in the evening.

The Greek word, "catachresis'' refers to misusing words, but Sriram didn't stumble over it.

"Ushabti,'' the Egyptian word, refers to a small figurine placed in ancient Egyptian tombs to perform agricultural work in the land of the dead.

"Mamaliga,'' a Romanian dish of cornmeal often garnished with cheese or sour cream, also kept him going in the competition.

Earlier in the day, his knowledge of French helped move Sriram through the semifinals and the first round of the finals.

And he easily spelled the German word "thalweg'' which means the middle of a navigable waterway that forms the boundary between states.

The French word "bidonville'' got him into the final three.
"I take French, and both my words were French,'' he said of the words he spelled correctly in the semifinals to become one of 11 finalists.

He impressed early in the finals by correctly spelling a French-derived word for monkey.

"Singerie'' refers to a picture, decoration or design in which monkeys are depicted.

That put him among the top 10.

In the semi-finals, Sriram aced his way past "flaneur" in Round 5 and "surtout" in Round 6.

Flaneur refers to an aimless and usually self-centered and superficial person. Surtout refers to a man's fitted coat or overcoat.

Both words that Sriram received on stage Wednesday referred to dogs. "Schipperke" is a small Belgian breed and "Airedale" is a breed of terriers that originated in Yorkshire, England.

Sriram took note of the change in his luck Thursday.

"It's not a dog this time,'' he said as he shuffled his feet and smiled.
This was Sriram's fourth time at the national spelling bee.

He finished second in the regional finals last year. This year, second place at the regional finals went to his younger brother, Jairam, whom Sriram defeated.

The two boys like to compete against each other playing ping pong in the basement of their home.

Sriram has another year of eligibility for the bee if he doesn't win this year.

Two years ago, at the age of 11, he placed sixth.

A flying squirrel called a "polatouche" eliminated him that year.
Sriram said he thinks he may try to return one more time next year. I'm pretty sure I'm going to come back,'' he said.

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