CULVER CITY — A seventh-grader from Culver City Middle School failed to advance to the championship finals of the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28 semifinals at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, despite correctly spelling both of his semifinal words.
Cooper Komatsu did not score high enough on two multiple-choice spelling and vocabulary tests taken May 26 and 27 to be among the 10 spellers to qualify for the championship finals. A minimum of 61 points out of a maximum 72 was required.
In a piece Komatsu wrote for Culver Currents, the Culver City Unified School District’s newsletter, Komatsu called qualifying for the National Spelling Bee “A dream come true.”
He first competed in spelling bees as a fourth grader at El Marino Elementary School. He came in sixth place in the school contest that year, stumbling on the word “surveyor.”
Last year, as a sixth grader Komatsu won the district spelling bee and advanced to the county Spelling Bee, where he finished second. This year he won the district and county competitions, qualifying for the national contest.
Komatsu spent a week in Washington, D.C. for the competition. He arrived in the nation’s capital on Memorial Day and made new friends at a Memorial Day picnic for all the 285 competitors by breaking out a Scrabble board. He also met Jacques Bailly, a former National Spelling Bee champion who now serves as the word pronouncer during the competition.
On May 26, Komatsu took a vocabulary and spelling test as part of the competition.
“I checked my answers and knew I had done pretty well,” he wrote in Culver Currents.
The competition started the following day with Komatsu spelling two words correctly, “Amarillo” (a tree) “nockerl” (a dumpling). He was one of 49 students who moved on to the semifinals.
After it was announced that he had made the semifinals, he had to take another spelling and vocabulary test. It was harder than the first test and Komatsu said he knew he didn’t do as well.
On May 28, he returned to the stage for two more words. Komatsu correctly spelled “inessive” and then correctly spelled “dicynodon.”
“Inessive” is an adjective meaning of a grammatical case, denoting position or location within. “Dicynodon” is a genus of herbivorous semiaquatic Permian reptiles.
However, his two test scores were not high enough to get him into the top 10 spellers who competed in the final competition that evening.
Komatsu did get to watch the finals from the stage, being chosen to represent all the spellers from California.
With the competition over, Komatsu said the group got to tour Washington, D.C., May 29 and then attended an awards banquet and farewell party later that night.
On May 30, he and his family got to tour the White House before heading home.
“It has been a wonderful experience, and I couldn’t have asked for a better bee,” he wrote in Culver Currents.
The bee ended in a tie for the fifth time and second consecutive year when Gokul Venkatachalam of St. Louis correctly spelled “nunatak,” a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice, and there were no longer enough words remaining on the championship list for another complete round.
The final word correctly spelled by co-champion Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas was “scherenschnitte,” a German word for the art of cutting paper into decorative designs.