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C-h-a-m-p-i-o-n . . . again

Kannoth wins fourth straight spelling bee title

Four years ago as a nervous third-grader, Aditya Kannoth stepped to the microphone at Wilder Middle School and quietly started a dynasty.

Kannoth correctly spelled the word "unenforceable" to win the Henrico County Spelling Bee in the ninth round, outlasting nearly 60 other students representing each of the county's elementary and middle schools.

The following year, at Hungary Creek Middle School, Kannoth spelled "exhilarated" correctly to repeat as the county champion in a 15-round bee.

Last year at Hungary Creek, Kannoth spelled "immaculate" in the 13th round to win his third consecutive title.

But he wasn't done yet.

Last week at Hungary Creek, Kannoth outlasted dozens of opponents for the fourth straight year, this year spelling "surrealism" in the 19th round to earn a "four-peat" as county champion.

That Kannoth has excelled so consistently at the highest level perhaps shouldn't come as a surprise. Without any coaching or lessons from his parents, he taught himself to read at the age of 3. By the same age, he had memorized the names of all 50 states and knew their capital cities, his mother, Sarita, recalled recently.

"[In 2009] he came home and said he won his class bee, and we said, ‘Ok, great,’" Sarita Kannoth said. "Then he won the school bee, and then the county bee. We were completely amazed at that point."

His love of reading – a regular pastime at home – "is really what helps him," Sarita Kannoth said. "He's been reading much more than kids normally do at his age. We've let him read a couple of John Grisham books because we were running out of others."

Kannoth, who aspires to be either an engineer (like his father, Vinod) or a neurosurgeon, is driven by a competitive streak.

"Sometimes I don't like studying, but I really look forward to the competition," he said.

When he's not spelling, Kannoth enjoys playing a variety of sports (including tennis and basketball) and video games. He prepares for the spelling bee each year by studying list of words online.

During the competitions, he frequently asks for the definition and origin of a word to help provide himself with clues about its spelling. Then he attempts to visualize the word in his mind.

His advice to would-be spellers?

"First of all, just sound it out," he said. "Depending on the language, it will probably work – except if it's French. That's
harder to sound out."

Several times in the past four county spelling bees, that advice has helped him spell a word that at first seemed tricky, Kannoth said.

On March 10, Kannoth will again compete in the regional spelling bee at the Library of Virginia. This time, he's going with one thought in mind.

"I'm going to try to win it this year," he said.

The ultimate goal of competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. serves as another motivating factor for the young student.

"I've heard it's really nice," he said, "and that it's not just about spelling. They take you on tours and stuff like that."

And despite his success in spelling and interest in reading, Kannoth's favorite subject is math.

"It's pretty complex, challenging," he said.

In addition to being perhaps the most acclaimed scholastic speller in Henrico County history, Kannoth also sports one of the most impressive collections of dictionaries for a student his age. That's because the winner of the Henrico bee receives one each year.

"The very first year, he was fine with the prize," Sarita Kannoth recalled with a chuckle. "Then the next year he said, ‘Oh, I hope it's not a dictionary.’

"Now, we've got a collection of dictionaries."

That's "dictionaries:" D-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-i-e-s.


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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