Culver City 8th-Grader Ties for 7th in National Spelling Bee Finals

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Cooper Komatsu, 13, an eighth-grader at Culver City Middle School, tied for seventh place in the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was held May 24 to 26 in National Harbor, Md.

Cooper Komatsu

Cooper Komatsu

Sponsored by the Los Angeles Spelling Bee Collaborative, Cooper was among 45 spellers who advanced out of an initial field of 285. He shared seventh place with Sreeniketh Vogoti, 13, of Saint Johns, Fla., a seventh-grader at Fruit Cove Middle School, and Mitchell Robson, 14, of Marblehead, Mass., an eighth-grader at St. John’s Preparatory School.

Cooper correctly spelled “cacomixl” (a catlike mammal found in southern North America, related to but smaller than a raccoon); “glaucothoe” (a young hermit crab); “buccal” (an adjective meaning related to the mouth; “rerebrace” (a piece of armor protecting the upper arm); “myoclonus” (an involuntary muscle spasm); “tagasaste” (a small evergreen tree); and “adventitious” (an adjective describing something that occurs by chance).

But his streak ended in Round 9 when he misspelled “illicium” (a genus of flowering plant). As the competition is limited to students in eighth grade or below, this was his last appearance.

In local spelling bees, Cooper has correctly spelled “gudgeon,” “braggadocio,” “spilth,” “sinuosity” and “empiricism.”

There was a tie for first place between Jairam Hathwar,13, of Painted Post, N.Y., a seventh-grader at The Alternative School for Math and Science, and Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, a fifth-grader at River Ridge Elementary School. Third place went to Snehaa Ganesh Kumar, 13, of Folsom, Calif., an eighth-grader at Folsom Middle School.

The other top finishers were: Sylvie Lamontagne, 13, of Lakewood, Colo., an eighth-grader at Creighton Middle School, fourth place; Smrithi Upadhyayula, 13, of Coppell, Texas, an eighth-grader at Coppell Middle School West, fifth place; Rutvik Gandhasri, 12, of San Jose, a seventh-grader at Chaboya Middle School, sixth place; Jashun Paluru, 11, of West Lafayette, Ind., a sixth-grader at Battle Ground Middle School, 10th place.

Cooper has studied Japanese since he was a kindergartener, and likes how it connects him to his ancestors’ culture. He has a passion for geography, maps and discovering new places. Social studies and math are his favorite subjects.

In his free time, Cooper participates on his school’s cross-country team, on the Lego Robotics team, and in Boy Scouts of America. He is a Los Angeles Clippers fan, but he loves the Los Angeles Lakers too. The best board game, in Cooper’s opinion, will always be Scrabble.

After a fourth-place finish last year, Cooper and his teammate, Jem Burch, playing as “Lucky 13,” won the North American School Scrabble Championship tournament out of 85 teams from across the U.S. and Canada. Cooper tied for 11th place in the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and his grandfather Robert Rosenberg competed in the Bee in 1955.

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