The dark horse contestant was Sharif. He started studying with the camp after his win and learned the regional material in a matter of weeks.
"He worked super hard, because he had a little catching up to do," said Escobar. "He's very goal oriented, and he works terribly, terribly hard. He has very high expectations...it's wonderful to see that rewarded."
Making it to the final round is a reward of its own, and a challenge. The bee involves hours of competition in which the number of contestants is gradually pared down. Five students made it to the final round, including Bethlehem Central eighth grader Noah Pappas.
Pappas also ascended to the final round in the 2010 competition. Though he clearly has an affinity for language, he doesn't spend much time poring over flashcards or curled up with a dictionary.
"He was just one of those kids who basically taught himself to read at three. Words always came pretty naturally to him," said Darcy Pappas, Noah's mother. "He sees a word and he knows it."
Pappas also is a member of his school's bowling and volleyball teams. He was disqualified on the word "felicitous."
Sharif, Pappas and the three other finalists will appear at The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza on Friday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m., to share their experiences and also to wish Sharif good luck in Washington.
Sharif's trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be paid for. He also won a laptop computer, a $300 in U.S. savings bonds, Webster's dictionary and Amazon.com gift card and a subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
The other finalists were Paul Capuano, who is home schooled; Bill Dong, of Guilderland Central School District; and Brandon Brijall, of the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School.""