Olentangy Valley News

No trophy, but plenty of memories for super speller

Lewis Center's Max Danner has no regrets after just missing cutoff for national spelling bee finals

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When it came time for Max Danner to spell pneumatocyst, his lack of familiarity with the word did not sufflaminate him.

Max spelled both pneumatocyst ("a submerged or exposed root often functioning as the respiratory organ of a plant") and sufflaminate ("to impede") correctly at the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee in late May.

In fact, Max spelled all of his words correctly on stage through six rounds before being eliminated by his scores on a computer test used to shrink the field. The 14-year-old Lewis Center resident finished tied for 13th place, one spot short of the championship finals.

Max, a student at Oakstone Academy in Westerville, credited his success in the competition to his rigorous preparation.

"You can achieve anything as long as you have the dedication for it," he said.

Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Painted Post, N.Y., and Ansun Sujoe, 13, of Fort Worth, Texas, earned co-champion honors at the bee after they both survived 22 rounds of competition.

Although he was eliminated just shy of the finals, Max said he was not disappointed in his performance.

"I was proud of myself that I reached that level," he said.

Max's goal for this year's competitive spelling season -- his last due to age restrictions -- was to win the regional spelling bee at Ohio University. He won the competition in March by spelling the winning word, enamor.

Max's dad, Jay Danner, said his son kept setting new goals for himself as the national competition continued. He said he felt less nervous about the competition because Max already had achieved his goal of winning a regional title.

"It was obviously very exciting," Danner said. "For some reason ... it seemed a little less stressful than the regional bee.

"It felt like anything beyond that was extra and above."

Max said he was a little stressed for the first round of oral competition, but he relaxed after spelling a few words correctly.

His dad said the bee -- which took place just southeast of Washington, D.C., in Oxon Hill, Md. -- had the atmosphere of a championship sporting event. One difference, he said, was that no one was cheering against any of the participants.

"You felt yourself rooting for all of these kids to do well," he said.

Max said he left the bee with some new friends and many good memories.

The Danner family found time during the trip to take a tour of the nation's capital. Max said highlights of the trip included visits to the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History.

After spending hours studying spelling every week, Max said he's ready to relax during summer break. He said he's interested in participating in science fairs and other academic competitions in the coming school year.

Max said he may pursue a career as an editor or a writer after he's done with school. He said he thinks his experience on spelling's biggest stage would help him throughout his life.

"It really put things in perspective for me," he said. "Things that seemed stressful before the bee don't seem as stressful."

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