• Kyodo, Staff Report


A 13-year-old American boy representing Japan was disqualified during preliminaries at an annual U.S. spelling competition Wednesday. He said he is keen to do better next year.

Sean Fogerty, who was born and lives in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, said he was “proud to be the sole representative from Japan” among the 283 spellers from eight countries including South Korea and China in the Spelling Bee competition, one of the most popular educational competitions in the United States. He was selected to represent Japan after winning the 6th Japan Times Spelling Bee in March.

Fogerty, who attends Robert D. Edgren High School at a U.S. military base in Misawa, stumbled on the word “sortition” in the third round of the competition, after having successfully spelled “confetti” in an earlier round.

“I had heard the word before but I wasn’t entirely sure how to spell it,” Fogerty said.

“And I was a little disappointed ’cause I knew I probably wasn’t going to get it right because there are so many variations of the suffix that it’s maybe like a 1 in 4 chance that I’d get it.” He had spelled it “sortician.”

Winning the bee is as much about chance as good memory. Fogerty, who studied the resources provided by the organizer, said that he could spell the first few words after he walked off stage such as “psychosomatic” and “frigorific.”

“I wish that if there was one more person between me and my word then I would’ve gotten it,” he said.

However, he quickly recovered, saying, “I do feel a little better ’cause I can just enjoy the rest of the week and try to make more friends.”

Fogerty said he considered the high-profile competition “a fun goal,” adding that he is already planning to attempt next year’s challenge. “I do hope to come back and try again especially now that I know what it’s like a little bit more and I have firsthand experience with it,” he said.

Fogerty and other spellers aged 9 to 15 were asked to spell words on stage such as “sevruga,” “panophthalmitis,” “xiphias” and “hypotrichosis.”

A slew of Japanese-origin words were tested, including kabuki, sukiyaki, samurai, issei, satori, tsunami and Yayoi.

More than 11 million students attempted the bee by participating in contests held in schools, locally sponsored events and, for those living abroad like Fogerty, country events.

Held since 1925, this longest running and largest education program is so popular in the United States that its finals are shown live by ESPN, a major sports channel. More than 900,000 home viewers watched last year’s finals, according to spokesman Mac Nwulu.

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