WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Tony Speare will never forget the word he misspelled Thursday.

"Xanadu" --meaning "idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place" -- knocked the Utah champion out of the competition. Speare spelled it "Xanidu."Finishing in 38th place was not too upsetting for the 12-year-old from Challenger School in Sandy and the Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee Champion. "I'm disappointed but glad I don't have to spell anymore," replied Tony after emerging from the "comfort room" with a cookie and a soda.

Top place in the 2000 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee went to George Abraham Thampy, a 12-year-old home-schooler from Missouri. He correctly spelled "demarche," which means a step or maneuver.

And this came only one week after Thampy placed second in a national geography bee.

"My mom and dad taught me everything," the Maryland Heights, Mo., boy said modestly after winning the two-day spelling contest.

And he wasn't exaggerating. His mother, Bina, works full-time teaching her four sons and three daughters.

With the victory, Thampy became the second home-schooler ever to win the national spelling competition. "What makes home-schooling better is that Mom and Dad allow me to be flexible," Thampy said. "I can do something else, like Latin."

Thampy's knowledge earned him $10,000 in the spelling bee. The money, he said, would go to his parents.

His second-place showing in the geography bee earned him $15,000. He missed out on the top spot when he could name only one of the three largest sections of Denmark. His opponent named all three.

Thampy's final two spelling bee rivals also were taught at home:

In second was Sean Conley, 12, of Newark, Calif. "Apotropaic," which means designed to avert evil, tripped him up; he spelled it "apotrypaic." He won $5,000.

Alison Miller, 14, from Niskayuna, N.Y., took third and $3,000. Alison missed "venire." She spelled the word for drawing qualified people as jurors "veniery."

"This is outstanding confirmation of the academic excellence of home-schooling," said Michael Farris, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Va.

Contestants are usually sponsored by their local newspaper. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sponsored Thampy.

As winner of the Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee, Speare got an all-expense-paid trip to Washington for himself and one parent courtesy of the newspaper. For his 38-place finish, won by spelling the word "flagon," meaning "a large usually metal or pottery vessel," Speare will take home $150.

Speare said his favorite subject in school is spelling -- of course-- along with math and history. He said that he would like to pursue a career in writing.

He was accompanied to Washington by his parents, John and Lauren Speare, and two sisters. The family said they had a great time in the nation's capital during "Bee Week," which includes a variety of activities in addition to the competition.

They will return home on Saturday, just in time for Tony to finish school for the year. Challenger is a private school where he is just finishing sixth grade.

The Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee list for 2000-01 will be sent out to school district coordinators the first part of September. The district coordinators will then distribute the lists to the schools that will be participating for the upcoming year. Check the Web site, www.deseretnews.com/bee, to find out who your district coordinator will be.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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