Culver City Observer -

Culver Spelling Champion Shares His Experience

Cooper Komatsu Reached National Final


(MOTHER'S NOTE) We are so amazed and proud about how far he went, and grateful for the community support. He intends to try again next year as an eighth grader. --- Deborah Komatsu

By Cooper Komatsu

My name is Cooper Komatsu. I started in spelling bees when I was in fourth grade at El Marino. I got sixth place, going out on the word "surveyor." Over the next three years, I participated in several more bees and got better at it.

This year, CCMS held a Scripps-eligible spelling bee. After winning it, I advanced to the Los Angeles County Regional competition. In sixth grade, I had come in second. This year, I was really hoping for first place - and out of 110 spellers, I made it. This honor/responsibility included a lot more studying, and I was happy when the moment came to board the plane to D.C.

When I got to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center it was a dream come true. I had always seen it on TV, but this time it was real. The first day was orientation, where we were given "Beekeepers" (autograph picture books) of all 285 spellers. Throughout the week, we got autographs from kids coming from all 50 states and several foreign countries, including China, Japan, the Bahamas, Jamaica, South Korea and Ghana.

At the Memorial Day picnic, I made some new friends when I opened up a Scrabble board I'd remembered to bring from home. I also got to meet Dr. Jacques Bailly, the famous National Spelling Bee pronouncer who says all the words and is a former champion himself. On Tuesday, I took a written test, which had vocabulary as well as spelling questions. I checked my answers and knew I had done pretty well.

On Wednesday, I finally went on stage for an oral round. I spelled both of my words correctly - "Amarillo" (a tree) and "nockerl" (a dumpling). At the end of the day, they announced who has made the cut to the semifinals; I was one of 49 kids who did. I was SO happy. I got a medal and Microsoft Surface 3 tablet. But then I had to run off immediately to take ANOTHER written test. Again, it was a test of vocabulary as well as spelling - but harder. I didn't do as well on this one.

On Thursday morning, I returned for more on-stage oral spelling, and I got my two words right - "inessive" (a grammar term) and "dicynodon" (a prehistoric mammal-like reptile). However, my cumulative score wasn't quite high enough to get to the final round.

I was sad that I was out, but happy that I never had to hear that scary bell and happy that I could take a break from studying. I went back that evening to watch the finals from onstage; they wanted one representative from each state/country to be there to cheer on the finalists, and they asked me to represent California! It was exciting to have a front row seat to watch the finalists compete.

In the end, there were two co-champions - Vanya and Gokul. Both were magnificent and inspiring spellers. I hope you had a chance to watch!

On Friday, I took a tour of Washington D.C., then went to an awards banquet, and then to a farewell party. On Saturday, my family and I took a tour of the White House. It has been a wonderful experience, and I couldn't have asked for a better Bee!

Thank you to my school, my teachers, my community, my friends and my family for all of your support.


Cooper Komatsu

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Cooper finished tied for 11th out of 285 regional winners)


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