PLAINS TWP. — Spellers breezed through words like parfait, herbivore and cadenza before going to unstudied words Sunday at the Times Leader/Scripps Regional Spelling Bee.
The event, held at the Woodlands Inn and Resort in Plains Township, was won on the word: valet.
When he heard the word in the final round, 12-year-old Peter Khoudary was surprised.
“I thought it would have been a bigger word,” Peter said.
Peter correctly spelled runic and the winning word — meaning “a person who parks cars for guests at a hotel, restaurant, etc,” according to Merriam-Webster — after Landon Wolk, 12, from Drums Elementary/ Middle School, misspelled penultimate in the annual contest.
“I thought I had to spell penultimate again,” Peter said surprised he was given the word runic. “When (the announcer) said archaeology (while defining the word), I thought ruin and ic.”
Peter won a first-place trophy, a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and an invitation to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, just outside of Washington, D.C., May 24 to 26.
“I get this?” he asked excitedly when the judges of the event presented him with the dictionary.
Peter, of Dallas, is a son of Raymond and Malak Khoudary and a student at Good Shephard Academy. He has three siblings: Maria, Anthony and Theresa, who were on hand to see him win.
He won at the school by spelling the word jai alai, a Latin sport derived from handball.
“I feel bad for the girl (who placed runner up at Good Shephard), she made it to runner up last year,” Peter said.
The Times Leader has sponsored the bee since the mid 80s.
“The Times Leader is proud to sponsor the spelling bee and recognize the academic achievements of these fine young men and women,” Dotty Martin, managing editor of the Times Leader, said.
Changing from Studied to Unstudied
Before Round 11 began, bee announcer Jean Lynott announced, “We’ll be changing from the words you studied to unstudied words.”
According to Lynott, once the group of kids left are easily spelling the studied words without anyone getting eliminated, they switch to the unstudied words.
A large groan came from the crowd before words like lancet, escrow and wrathful knocked out contestants.
While they switched to unstudied words, the contestants were able to last for seven more rounds, with Peter closing out the spelling bee in round 17.
Kalen Churcher, Kristie Ceruti and Times Leader staff reporters Mark Guydish and Mary Therese Biebel served as judges. Lynott, Churcher and Ceruti were impressed with the talent this year and how long they lasted in the competition.
“They were very well prepared,” Lynott said impressed with how the contestants asked about language of origins and definitions of many of the words.
“They spoke with such confidence,” Churcher said. “There wasn’t a lot of hesitation.”
The judges also commented on the support of family and friends in the audience and the turnout for the spelling.
“It’s great that there are so many people that come out and support him and stayed for all the rounds,” Churcher said.
To get to the national bee, Peter had to win at Good Shepard and beat 21 others at the Woodlands.
Malak, said Peter only studied minimally.
“He only studied 30 minutes per night,” Malak said. “Last night (Saturday), we studied for an hour.”
According to Malak, Peter is “a big reader” and “was determined to win.”
But Peter had a busy few days leading to the composition. On Thursday, Peter competed at Holy Redeemer High School in a forensics composition. On Saturday, he competed at the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science composition, where he won and advanced to a competition at Penn State. And Sunday, he won the spelling bee.
The national bee will pay travel expenses and lodging for Peter and one adult. The family has other plans, however.
“We’re going to take five days and enjoy the capital,” Raymond said.
Peter, a basketball and soccer fan, wants to see a Washington Wizards game while he’s in town. He also was excited about seeing the museums and “the Lincoln Memorial.”
Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko
Reach Brigid Edmunds at 570-991-6119 or on Twitter @TLNews