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Published: May 28, 2009 11:48 pm Kennyi Aouad places sixth at National Spelling BeeBy Howard GreningerThe Tribune-StarTERRE HAUTE — Palatschinken, the name of a central European pancake, was not tasty for Terre Haute's Kennyi Aouad as he missed its spelling, finishing sixth in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship Thursday night in Washington, D.C.Obviously disappointed, the effervescent Otter Creek Middle School student did manage to make a characteristic funny face as he heard the correct spelling.

"It's all right," he said, after learning he was out of the contest, adding that he had "tried my best."Aouad easily spelled his first word, the adverb "scilicet," as he smiled at the camera.

"He had his game face on," a television announcer said during the early round of the ABC network live broadcast.A video that was aired before Aouad spelled his first word gave some insight into the Otter Creek student, showing him running in a park near his Terre Haute home."I am fast — well, decent fast," he quipped.He said "jovial" best describes him.

His family is from Ghana and said his name, Kennyi, means "wisdom." "I think it is pretty unique," he said.After his first spelling, Aouad was interviewed during a short break in the event.

He took the microphone from the TV reporter when asked a question."Oh, you want to take this, too? You are so confident, you are going to take my mike?" the reporter said."It just comes natural.

I studied for a long time, so I believe I can do it," Aouad said.Aouad correctly spelled his second word, "gyascutus," which is a mythical four-legged creature.The first speller to be eliminated from the contest final was Tussah Heera of Nevada, who missed "herniorrhaphy."By round nine, only seven spellers remained.

Aouad survived "hypallage," then successfully completed round 10 with "grisaille." By round 11, there were still seven spellers.It was here that "palatschinken" would cause Aouad to stumble.Earlier Thursday, after the semifinals were completed, Aouad's mother, Salamatu Adama-Aouad, said by telephone that her son "has worked so hard, and he has been sick for two days now, so I was a bit frightened" for him during the semifinals."He has worked very hard and put in a lot of hours every day.

He made a big sacrifice plus there is an element of luck to it as well.

I am proud of him whatever happens," she said.

"There are 11 [contestants] left, and he is one of them, so I can't complain."Scott M.

Moore, principal at Otter Creek Middle School, said he tried to watch as much of Aouad as he could during the day Thursday."I saw where he talked about his previous experience and that was really neat.

The students and staff are so excited.

Kennyi is a very likable kid.

You can tell that by his interaction with the [TV] camera.

He has a great sense of humor and treats others well.

In return, I think that is why kids here want to see him do so well.

He is very reflective of our student body," Moore said."To be one of such an elite few is incredible and an honor," Moore said.Belinda K.

McDonald is Aouad's English teacher at Otter Creek.

Once thought to be a special education student, Kennyi is in McDonald's gifted and talented class."We had the television on [Thursday] and when he was in the fourth round, we were just so excited for him.

We then muted the television, but whenever his number came up, we all cheered him on," McDonald said."In his profile, when he said the words that described him as jovial, that is absolutely true.

He is just genuinely a good-natured young man who has a smile on his face at all times and a good word for everyone," she said.McDonald said she chuckled when Aouad stood up from his seat and bent down to the camera level just before television coverage ended on the semifinals.

"This is Kennyi also.

He has a bit of a dramatic flare.

He really cherishes this little corner of academia that he has carved out for himself," McDonald said.Mattheu Lugar taught Kennyi Aouad in the fifth grade at Terre Town Elementary School."The refresh button on my computer is probably worn out from updating the Scripps site," he joked Thursday afternoon.

"I probably clicked on it about 37,000 times.

We were updating a lot of the kids here because, as fifth-graders, they visit Otter Creek where Kennyi goes to school and they had [Kennyi] come talk to the fifth-graders [in April] about what it means to get involved in different activities at Otter Creek."He is also on the math team, plays in the band and is on the track team," Lugar said."He is just a great person.

He is a brilliant kid.

You give him any new knowledge and he just soaks it up like a sponge, but he also has a great sense of humor and relates to people and actually cares about other people."I have kept in contact with him and he always asks about other members of my family and knows my wife coaches the dance team in Rockville.

In fact, a good example of him caring about other people, last year, I wasn't able to go to the regional spelling bee, so I had him give me a call to tell me how he did.

Before he told me how he did, he was asking how my wife's dance team did at the state finals," Lugar said."He is just one of those kids that if you get one of in 30 years of teaching, you're lucky," Lugar said.The champion, Kavya Shivashankar, of Olathe, Kan., won $30,000 in cash, a $5,000 scholarship, a $2,500 savings bond and other prizes.

All contestants received a commemorative watch, $100 cash, a dictionary and $100 savings bond.

Finalists also earned the Discover America from Encyclopedia Britannica and 2008 Discover America DVD-ROM.

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Photos Otter Creek student Kennyi Aouad pauses before giving an answer Thursday afternoon at the National Spelling Bee in Washington.

Bill Clark/Special to the Tribune-Star (Click for larger image) Kennyi Aouad, 13, of Terre Haute, Ind., competes in round six of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Washington, on Thursday, May 28, 2009.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press (Click for larger image) Resources Print this story E-mail this story Discuss this storyMore from the News sectionKennyi Aouad places sixth at National Spelling BeeAttorneys for Bennett, Burke present cases to Indiana Supreme CourtFifth-Third 'eBus' to visit Wabash Valley June 10-11Test results show ISU student who drowned had high blood-alcohol levelBail reduction hearing set for man accused of molestationTelevision Tonight
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