The 15th annual Boston spelling bee concluded Saturday in victory for Tanoshi Inomata, who secured the trophy with the winning word — ancho — after 13 rounds.
“I feel a little bit of joy, and I also feel surprised that I won,” said Inomata, 10, who had also represented Brighton’s Winship Elementary School in the bee last year.
Inomata was once again sporting his signature bow tie this year as he claimed his trophy.
“I felt more confident than last year,” he said in a phone interview, “but I never thought I’d really win!”
As the winner of the BCYF Citywide Spelling Bee, Inomata will go on to represent the city at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.
The first and only national spelling bee winner from Massachusetts won the competition more than 80 years ago, in 1939.
But Inomata wasn’t daunted by the challenge. Asked about the extra hours of studying he’ll have to put in, he said, “Yeah — more fun!”
More than 3,000 students from Boston public and parochial schools participated in school competitions ahead of the citywide bee, which included representatives from 23 schools across Greater Boston, according to Boston Center for Youth and Families spokesperson Sandy Holden.
The second place winner in the citywide competition was Sapna Malhotra, 11, with a tie for third place shared between Morgan Bocchicchio-Chaudhri, 11, and Brian Xu, 13.
“You get nervous for them, but they’re all such professionals,” said Boston Center for Youth and Families Commissioner Marta Rivera, who recalled winning a Spanish spelling bee when she was a Boston public school student.
“Particularly for those of us that come from either immigrant or low-income communities and families, in some ways it’s an equalizer,” Rivera said in a phone interview. “The preparation and how families and teachers get involved, that really strikes a chord for me. ... It’s thrilling to see an entire community that is so into the bee.”
Inomata’s parents, who are musicians, moved to Boston from Japan in 2008 and raised their son speaking Japanese in the home.
“He was very interested in letters since he was very little, so he could read and write before kindergarten, but he couldn’t understand English at all,” said his mother, Hiromi Inomata, over the phone.
Through ESL classes, Inomata quickly became bilingual and an eager participant in the school’s spelling bees. But, his mother said, “we never thought he would one day win the city bee!”
Inomata credits his school librarian, Aaron Noll, with helping him study for the bee every morning at school. After class, he said, he would come home and practice more words with his parents from a 25-page list provided by the bee.
The most difficult words to spell, he said, were homophones: words that sound similar but are spelled differently. For example, “depredation and deprivation,” he said.
But Inomata didn’t hesitate to say his favorite word, a French term meaning extraordinary success: “succès fou!”