Wisconsin spelling bee champ ends Scripps National Spelling Bee run as semifinalist

Kimberly Wethal

Middleton speller Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya has accomplished his personal goal of placing higher at the Scripps National Spelling Bee than his last time there.

Aiden ended his run at the national bee tied with another competitor for 21st as he incorrectly defined “obivate” in the seventh round. Nailing the silent “c” at the start of “ctenidium” in the sixth round, Aiden survived a grueling semifinals round Wednesday that knocked out 34 of 56 competitors.

Getting to the point where the competition was using the Merriam-Webster dictionary as its source material, rather than the spelling bee’s own list, was exciting, Aiden said Wednesday.

“Being able to study and memorize the 4,000 words on one of the champion lists given is one thing, but being able to identify and break down words from anywhere in the 500,000-plus words in the dictionary is another thing,” he said. “I just find it really fun to decode the word.”