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After surprise win, Bee co-champion builds robots

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Posted at 2:20 PM, May 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-13 14:25:20-04

Winning the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee was a shock for co-champion Ansun Sujoe. The year before he didn’t even make the semifinals.

“Winning was nearly out of the question,” Ansun said. “But somehow God took me through that.”

Ansun traded letters back and forth with fellow winner Sriram Hathwar. But it was Ansun who had the last word when the confetti came down. The media coverage was something Ansun wasn’t prepared for, though now he’s a media pro.

“I didn’t know what was going on. This was totally new for me,” he said.

Then, things got back to normal. Sujoe, 14, is now in 8th grade at Bethesda Christian School in Fort Worth, Texas. He attributes his success to hard work, his parents and God.

He’s not eligible to compete in the Bee again, so he has time now for other interests.

Last February, Ansun competed in Mathcounts, a math-based Bee-like competition. He advanced to the state level in Austin, Texas. Ansun is a gifted musician, playing piano, guitar and bassoon.

“I haven’t lost touch with spelling altogether but I’ve been doing that to a lesser degree,” Ansun said.

Ansun loves robotics. With others, he built a bot named Beracalepeytansdon and took it to a regional competition of the First Lego League. It throws soccer balls, picks up objects and launches others.

Though he hasn’t yet started high school, Ansun is taking his first college class in web development this summer through Duke TIP. To get there, he scored a perfect 800 in SAT math.

Ansun’s eight-year-old sister Hephzibah, now in third grade, also took up spelling. He’s been helping her along.

Ansun keeps in touch with Bee speller and friend Kate Miller. Her brother Jack is competing in the Bee this year and Ansun is rooting for him.

For this year’s spellers, Ansun said it takes effort to win — not just talent.

“You have to persevere. Never give up,” he said.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.