Culver City Edition Lead Story

Culver City student finishes seventh in national Spelling Bee

LOS ANGELES — Cooper Komatsu, an eighth-grader at Culver City Middle School, tied for seventh in the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee that concluded May 26 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Komatsu began the day by correctly spelling cacomixl, a catlike mammal found in southern North America, related to but smaller than a raccoon.

He went on to correctly spell: glaucothoe, a young hermit crab; buccal, an adjective meaning related to the mouth; rerebrace, a piece of armor protecting the upper arm; and myoclonus, an involuntary muscle spasm.

However, in the ninth round, Komatsu faltered on the spelling of illicium, a genus of flowering plant, knocking him out of the competition at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention.

On May 25, Komatsu was among 45 spellers who advanced out of an initial field of 285.

Komatsu correctly spelled the words tagasaste — a small evergreen tree — and adventitious — an adjective describing something that occurs by chance, during the second and third rounds and was among the top scorers on a 26-question multiple-choice spelling and vocabulary test taken May 24. The test is considered the bee’s first round.

Komatsu also competed in last year’s bee, correctly spelling both of his semifinal words, but did not score high enough on two multiple-choice spelling and vocabulary tests to be among the 10 spellers to qualify for the championship finals.

The format of this year’s bee changed, with the second spelling and vocabulary test dropped.

With the bee limited to students in eighth grade or below, this was Komatsu’s final opportunity to win the championship.

He qualified for the national bee on March 15 by winning the Los Angeles County Scripps Regional Spelling Bee for the second consecutive year.

Komatsu is 13 years old and teamed with Jem Burch to win the North American School Scrabble championship last month.

Komatsu has studied Japanese since he was a kindergartener and likes how it connects him to his ancestors’ culture. He has a passion for geography, maps and discovering new places. Social studies and math are his favorite subjects.

Komatsu is a member of his school’s cross country and robotics teams and a Boy Scout. He is a Los Angeles Clippers fan but says he also loves the Los Angeles Lakers.

His maternal grandfather, Robert Rosenberg, competed in the 1955 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The bee is intended “to inspire children to improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives,” according to Paige Kimble, the bee’s executive director and 1981 champion.

The bee ended with co-champions for the third consecutive year.

The 39th and final round began with Jairam Hathwar, a seventh-grader at the Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning, New York, correctly spelling Feldenkrais, a system of aided body movements intended to increase bodily awareness and ease tension.

Nihar Janga, a fifth-grader at River Ridge Elementary School in Austin, Texas, correctly spelled the final word on the list, gesellschaft, a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons.

Jairam’s brother Sriram was a co-champion of the 2014 bee.