Equipped with nerves of steel and an inner dictionary that just wouldn't quit, a 13-year-old Shakopee, Minn., boy won the 2001 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, surviving 16 rounds and outlasting 247 other young competitors.
Sean Conley, who finished second in last year's contest, won by spelling "succedaneum," which means, appropriately, "one that succeeds to the place of another."
Sean went word-for-word for five breathless rounds with Kristin Hawkins, a soft-spoken Virginia eighth-grader who, like Sean, was participating in the national bee for the third time.
Kristin coolly competed with Sean, rattling off such words as "hamartia" as if she were spelling her own last name. The word means "a defect of character."
But then she stumbled over "resipiscence," meaning a change of mind or heart.
Sean, who attends a private school in Anoka, Minn., will take home $10,000, while Kristin will get $5,000.
The competition began Tuesday, and by the end of the fourth round, the original group had shrunk to 34.
The final day of competition was broadcast on live TV and saw the first seven competitors misspell their words.
Among them was Sara Brand, 11, a sixth-grader from Knoxville, Tenn., who mulled over "Australopithecus" for so long the judges asked that she please get to the spelling. She began it with an "O" and never recovered.
Sean, who spent six years preparing for the competition, was home-schooled until this year. After a year in private school, he plans to resume home studies next year.