Corder: Tidmarsh

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

survives the pressure



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Move over Notre Dame football, Touchdown Jesus, Knute Rockne and Rudy. It’s time to share the South Bend, Ind., spotlight with a 14-year-old autochthonous &045; native or indigenous &045; to the area.

With his bottom lip quivering faster than a Frappuccino junkie going through withdrawls, Edison Intermediate Center eighth-grader David Tidmarsh received his championship word &uot;autochthonous.&uot; Tidmarsh muscled in questions for clarity on the word’s meaning and usage in a sentence between heavy breaths that reverberated into the microphone, and he wiped tears and his nose on his sleeve and shivered out the correct letters to become the 77th Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Thursday.

Tidmarsh, whose best finish prior to Thursday’s crowning achievement was 16th place last year, reached the final word by correctly spelling &uot;gaminerie&uot; in Round 14 after runner-up Akshay Buddiga misspelled &uot;schwarmerei.&uot;

Buddiga fainted in the midst of spelling &uot;alopecoid&uot; during Round 6, a first according to Katie Kerwin, one of the ESPN announcers. The scary moment prompted officials to allow Buddiga to sit in a chair while he spelled throughout the remainder of the competition.

Buddiga was attempting to complete the first brother tandem to win the Bee since 1962. Pratyush Buddiga, Akshay’s older brother, won in 2002.

When Akshay was eliminated in Round 14, he shuffled over to his family and received a deserving hug from Pratyush, once again proving the late Chris Farley’s theory: &uot;Brothers don’t shake hands. Brothers hug.&uot;

Tidmarsh, who was one of 84 14-year-olds and 133 eighth-grade spellers, clung to the engraved loving cup like Linus to his blanket. The gold trophy made a better door than window in front of Tidmarsh’s face.

&uot;I was so nervous. I couldn’t begin to explain it,&uot; he told ESPN commentator Chris McKendry. &uot;I was hoping I got a word I had studied.&uot;

Tidmarsh was deliberate all day, using his allotted time and, once, his bonus time &045; a new wrinkle to the Bee &045; before writing the word’s individual letters on the back of his yellow placard with his index finger before finally spelling the word.

A competition that began in February with 2 million spellers nationwide ended with a triumphant teenage boy burying his face and chest into the torso of his weepy but proud mother on stage.

&uot;My family is real important to me, not only for spelling bees but all parts of my life,&uot; said Tidmarsh, whose other interests include astronomy, meteorology, photography, technology, the supernatural and long walks on the beach. &uot;They encourage me in whatever I do.&uot;

In addition to his love for mystery and science fiction books, Tidmarsh’s favorite movie is the 2002 documentary &uot;Spellbound,&uot; which followed eight spellers at the 1999 Bee.

McKendry asked Tidmarsh, &uot;Is this as good as Hollywood can make it?&uot;

&uot;It’s even better,&uot; he responded.

Chuck Corder

is a sports writer for The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3633 or by e-mail at