In Andrew Erdman’s family of good spellers, he now holds bragging rights.
With a correct spelling of “modiste,” the SS. Peter and Paul, Williamsville, eighth-grader on Sunday outlasted 21 others to win his first appearance in The Buffalo News Spelling Bee.
His older siblings, Victoria and William, have placed highly in the competition. His younger sister, Caroline, a sixth-grader at SS. Peter and Paul, challenged Andrew this year for the right to represent their school.
But Sunday belonged to 14-year-old Andrew.
In the end, it came down to him and Saloni Kumar, an eighth-grader at Nichols Middle School, before a live audience in the Buffalo History Museum auditorium.
After nearly 20 rounds, with just the two of them left, Saloni correctly spelled “botuliform” but couldn’t win it with “altiplano,” which Andrew spelled correctly.
He then nailed “modiste” (one who makes and sells fashionable dresses and hats for women) to finish on top.
The audience – which included a large contingent of the Erdman family, including his parents, sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles – erupted with applause for Andrew after he spelled the winning word.
“He worked very hard with studying all the different words,” said Andrew’s father, William. “He also likes to do crossword puzzles, so I think that helps out, too. I was fine until we got down to the final two. Then I started to sweat.”
Andrew, a Little League baseball pitcher who said he has faced stressful situations on the field, didn’t seem fazed. He could be seen tracing the outline of words on the name card that hung from his neck.
“I’ve been here before to see my brother and sister that were in the spelling bee,” he said. “I’ve seen competitors do that, so I thought it would help me visualize the words.”
Andrew will compete in the Scripps National Bee finals during the last week of May in Washington, D.C.
More students seem to be memorizing the roughly 5,000 words on myspellit.com that make up the written test and first few rounds of the oral competition, said Deborah Patti, The Buffalo News Bee coordinator.
“Kids are really studying harder, it seems like, to get here,” she said.
Among the challenging words given were “bildungsroman,” “dispendious,” “balancelle,” “muon” and “diptych.”
Andrew succeeded against other sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in a competition that began months ago and involved about 8,000 students from 66 schools.
“He’s conscientious about working at it, getting help to study and getting us to quiz him so he can do a little oral practice,” said Andrew’s mom, Nancy.
Eighth-grader – and last year’s winner – Madeline McCoy of GRACE Leah Home School and seventh-grader Tyler McDonnell of Livonia Middle School finished third and fourth, respectively, while sixth-grader Santino Panzica of Immaculate Conception came in fifth.
Andrew received a $100 cash award, $50 in additional spending money for the all-expenses-paid trip, an engraved pen and pencil set and a copy of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.
The next four finishers also received engraved pen and pencil sets and other prizes.
Judging with Patti were Kathleen Kreis, former director of English and library services for the Buffalo Public Schools, and Carol Schlau, a Buffalo News copy editor.