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Kevin bows out with a smile

June 01, 2000|By TARA REILLY

When Kevin Roberts finished spelling the word "seine" Thursday he smiled, raised his arms above his head and leaped with joy.

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Roberts had spelled the word wrong and he knew it.

While most students appeared disappointed at being eliminated from the final rounds of the 2000 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., 14-year-old Roberts of southern Washington County near Knoxville, found his own way to cope.

"Everyone walked off with a sad expression on their face, some were even crying," Roberts said. "I was happy."

Roberts, who was sponsored in the contest by The Herald-Mail, said he wasn't upset about being knocked out because he had succeeded by making it to Round Six.

He started off one of 248 students nationwide in the competition and ended up in 22nd place before being eliminated by spelling "seine" as "sain."

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George Abraham Thampy, 12, of Maryland Heights, Mo., won the 73rd annual competition in the 15th round by correctly spelling "demarche."

Thampy and Roberts were among 27 bee contestants who are home schooled.

On Wednesday, Roberts advanced to the finals rounds held at the Grand Hyatt Independence Ballroom by correctly spelling the words "levanter," "franchisee" and "quinine" in the first, second and third rounds.

In Rounds Four and Five, he spelled "frangibility" and "nonage" before stumbling over "seine" in Round Six.

"Seine," a homonym, is a fishing net. Roberts said afterward he had no idea what the word meant or how to spell it.

"I knew it couldn't be "sane," that would be too easy," he said. "Whenever they give the homonym, it's usually the lesser known word."

Throughout the competition, Roberts appeared jittery on stage while waiting for his turn, occasionally rocking his head back and forth and covering his face with his hands.

But don't be fooled by that. He said he wasn't worried.

"I wasn't nervous," Roberts said. "I'm glad to be done."

His mother, Sandi, and father, Craig, said they were happy with their son's performance.

"He's done wonderfully," Sandi said. "He made it real far."

Roberts and the rest of the spellers spent Thursday night at a Kids-Only Beach Party. Today they'll tour the Capital, capped off by an awards banquet and Farewell Party.

"It was a great experience," Roberts said.

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