Mattapan seventh grader heads to national spelling bee after a 29-round nailbiter

Seventh-grader Sulayman Abdirahman of Mattapan's Brooke Charter School is Boston's newest spelling bee champ, after out-spelling 18 elementary and middle school competitors from across the city on Saturday.

The final word-off lasted a marathon 29 rounds between Abdirahman and sixth grader Anneliese Yu from Eliot Elementary. In the end, Abdirahman won with the word "après," the French preposition meaning "after" or "following." He'll go on to represent Boston in the Scripps National Spelling Bee later this year in Washington D.C.

Josephine LoRusso, an eighth grader from Boston Latin School, placed third.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu was among those in attendance Saturday. Wu competed in spelling bees while growing up in Chicago, but never made it beyond the city-wide competition.

"I grew up many years being in this same exact seat," said Wu. "I know how much work goes into this. I know how nerve wracking it is for them and for their families. And so I'm just really proud to see them stepping up very bravely today to take part."

Saturday's bee, organized by Boston Centers for Youth & Families, was the first time the competition was held in person since 2019.

Winship Elementary School Principal Brian Radley was there to cheer on his school's third grade competitor, Tanoshi Inomata.

"Our students have been working for months to prepare, you know, having classroom bees and a schoolwide bee, and to have this culminating event to celebrate it as a city is just so moving right now," said Radley.

Organizers said over 3,000 students across Boston participated in school spelling bees leading up to Saturday's competition.

Correction: this story and headline have been updated to reflect the correct number of final rounds.

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Amanda Beland Senior Producer
Amanda Beland is a producer and director for Radio Boston. She also reports for the WBUR newsroom.



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