WASHINGTON - Thirteen-year-old Evan O'Dorney of Danville, Calif., breezed through the Scripps National Spelling Bee with barely a hitch last night, taking the title, the trophy, and the prizes in a competition that he said wasn't his favorite.
The home-schooled eighth grader aced "serrefine" - a noun describing small forceps - to become the last youngster standing at the 80th annual bee.
He triumphed after a tense duel with Nate Gartke of Spruce Grove, Alberta, who was trying to become the first Canadian to win.
After the competition, Evan spoke more enthusiastically about attending a math camp in Nebraska this summer than about becoming the English language's top speller.
"My favorite things to do were math and music, and with the math I really like the way the numbers fit together," he said. "And with the music I like to let out ideas by composing notes - and the spelling is just a bunch of memorization."
Evan, who tied for 14th last year, won $35,000 cash, plus a $5,000 scholarship, a $2,500 savings bond, and a set of reference works. He said he knew how to spell the winning word as soon as the pronouncer said it.
Evan's father, Michael, is a subway train operator in the San Francisco area. His mother, Jennifer, is in charge of Evan's schooling.
"He memorizes well, he analyzes well, and he guesses well," Michael O'Dorney said.
Evan and Nate went head-to-head for three rounds, matching each other's correct spellings until Nate flubbed the medical word "coryza" by adding the letter "h."
The day began with 59 spellers remaining from the record 286 who started the competition on Wednesday. The field then narrowed one by one until Nate's victory.