Shayaan Subzwari proved he can certainly spell “schadenfreude.” And you’d have to forgive the Sunny Isles Beach sixth-grader if he felt just a little of it Wednesday at Jungle Island as, one by one, other students stumbled over words like “brouhaha” and “edelweiss,” and he was named the winner of the 73rd Miami Herald Spelling Bee.
Shayaan, 12, will now head to Washington, D.C., in the last week of May to represent Miami-Dade County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“It feels really good, and really surprising,” said Shayaan, who onstage wore the paper crown of event sponsor Burger King.
Earlier in the day, Anna Ortega Fridman, a fourth-grader at Coral Gables Preparatory, won the elementary school spelling bee.
When Shayaan won, his father, Syed Subzwari, lifted him off the ground and gave him a spinning bear hug. His mother and study partner, Insook Subzwari, jumped and cheered.
“Oh my god,” she said, still catching her breath. “Nervous. So nervous.”
Shayaan , who attends Norman S. Edelcup Sunny Isles Beach K8, competed against 70 other students. He scored high on a written exam and then dueled with 25 top competitors through a gauntlet of vocabulary that identified everything from African animals to Russian secret police and Polish trinkets. He outlasted second-place winner Amber Robinson, a Herbert A. Ammons Middle School seventh-grader who cursed her luck when she drew the word “coadjutor,” and Shayaan received “wafflestomper.”
Shayaan, however, said his victory wasn’t luck. He trained five to six days a week over three months. He said he used a program on Quizlet.com after school and on weekend mornings, spelling words and then spelling them again for his mother.
But to win it all, he had to spell a word he’d never studied – “bituminous.”
“These words – I never studied the last few words,” he said. “I was really nervous.”