10-year-old fourth-grader from Allston wins Boston spelling bee, moves onto nationals: ‘I wanted to win’

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After getting knocked out in the third round of last year’s Boston spelling bee, Tanoshi Inomata cut out his face from a photo taken of him competing and placed it on a picture of the winning contestant.

“I wanted to win this year,” Tanoshi said.

Calm, cool and collected, the determined fourth-grader at Allston’s Winship Elementary School accomplished his goal on Saturday. He beat out 22 other students in the annual citywide spelling bee at Boston Public Library’s Rabb Hall on Boylston Street.

Tanoshi will now compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May. He correctly spelled ‘ancho,’ a Spanish word for a poblano chili pepper especially when mature and dried to a reddish black, to clinch his paid trip to the nation’s capital.

“I feel thankful for my family that supported me and everyone else from the Winship school,” the reserved but confident 10-year-old told the Herald. The champion had quite a support system, as a group of friends and family members wore bright yellow t-shirts with a bumble bee and ‘Tanoshi’ on them.

Tanoshi fended off some fierce competition. Brian Xu, of Boston Latin School, sixth-grader Morgan Bocchicchio-Chaudri, of Boston Preparatory Charter School, and sixth-grader Sapna Malhotra, of Eliot Elementary School, joined him in the final four.

Brian and Morgan lasted rounds 7 through 10 before Sapna and Tanoshi duked it out in two final rounds. Tanoshi then claimed the winning prize in the championship round.

The second and third-place finishers received an Amazon Fire 8 tablet, $25 Amazon gift card and trophies.

Overall, 3,000 elementary-middle school students from 23 schools across the city competed this year. The winning contestant from each school appeared Saturday.

“Creating this space for continued academic enrichment for youth from all over the city to come together for this event is incredibly thrilling,” said Marta Rivera, commissioner of the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, which hosted the citywide contest.

Last year, 13-year-old Roxbury 7th-grader Sulayman Abdirahman won the local competition with the word “Apres,” meaning “after,” and went on to place 49th in the national competition, where he faltered with the word “favicon,” selling it “favachon,” according to his Scripps profile.

As soon as last year’s competition ended, Tanoshi went straight back to studying, said Aaron Noll, a librarian at the Winship school. To bolster those studying efforts, Noll formed a spelling club by the end of that school year, which has continued this year.

About 20 club members contributed to a spreadsheet of thousands of words. Tanoshi went an extent further, writing hundreds of words in different languages on small, bright flash cards that he kept on him.

Noll and Tanoshi’s mother recently narrowed the spreadsheet down to 35 words that had challenged Tanoshi.

“For three days, he and I just thought of little tricks to remember these,” Noll said. “Trapezoid, for example, we imagined the e was trapped in a trapezoid because he had trouble remembering the e. He’s a budding comic artist.”

The only Massachusetts student to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee came back in 1939, when 12-year-old Elizabeth Ann Rice, of Auburn, beat out 20 other competitors. The event has grown over the decades, with 234 contestants last year.

“Surprised,” Tanoshi said of how it feels to represent Boston in Washington. “I feel like there will be more people there. I’m going to practice more words every day.”

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Winship Elementary’s Tanoshi Inomata clutches the winning trophy at the conclusion of the BCYF Citywide Spelling Bee held at the Boston Public Library Saturday. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 18-SATURDAY: Manning ElementaryÕs Nate Derr reacts after realizing he misspelled a word, eliminating him from competition during the BCYF Citywide Spelling Bee held at the Boston Public Library March 18, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Manning Elementary’s Nate Derr reacts after realizing he misspelled a word, eliminating him from competition during the BCYF Citywide Spelling Bee. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)


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