Christopher O'Connor thought he was in trouble at the Arizona Educational Foundation's Arizona Spelling Bee Saturday when he first heard the word "temblor."
"I thought this was some crazy word I didn't know, but when they gave me the definition ... I figured it out," said Christopher, 13, a seventh-grader from St. Cyril of Alexander School in Tucson.
By correctly spelling the late-19th-century word for earthquake, Christopher won the bee in Phoenix and the honor of representing Arizona in the 86th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, to be held May 28-30 in Washington, D.C.
Christopher also won $800 cash, Webster's Third New International Dictionary and a Rosetta Stone language course compliments of Harrison Middleton University.
"I wasn't expecting to win," he said. "It was weird when they didn't ring the bell. It took awhile to sink in."
This was the second year Christopher competed in the statewide bee, which pitted 27 students from across the state against one another. He placed ninth last year. Both years, he brought a small statue of St. Christopher with him.
Although seventh grade has been a busier year for him, Christopher said he was fairly diligent about studying for this year's bee, using a list that had been provided.
He made it to the final round after correctly spelling "jejunely" following another student's misstep. Jejune means naive or simplistic.
"I felt good inside, but I also felt bad for (the other students) because that could have been me," Christopher said, describing the final moments of the bee.
When Christopher isn't studying for spelling bees, he plays volleyball, participates in track, practices martial arts and researches random things on the Internet. His favorite class is science, but he hasn't quite decided what career path he'll choose.
Christopher is the youngest of Carol and Andrew O'Connor's four children.
His sisters, Michelle, 15, and Jennifer, 18, were on hand to witness his win, along with his proud parents.
They were relieved to hear the national bee won't conflict with Jennifer's graduation from Salpointe Catholic High School as his siblings want to see him compete in Washington.
"They just adore him. They are so happy for him," Carol O'Connor said.
Christopher is an excellent student who does well in all of his classes, she said.
"I think he competed again this year because he wanted to do it and because he wanted to see how much better he could do," his mother said. "To tell you the truth, he was not expecting to win. It's quite a shock."
Michael Chen, a 9-year-old fourth-grader from Copper Creek Elementary School in Oro Valley, also participated in the bee. He placed 14th after misspelling the word "disconsolate."
A broadcast of the 2013 Arizona Spelling Bee will air at 8 p.m. April 5 on Arizona State University's Eight, Arizona PBS channel. Viewers can also watch the event on the Eight website, www.azpbs.org after the air date. It's unknown when the bee will air on Arizona Public Media in Tucson, said Jennifer Whittle, bee spokeswoman.
"I wasn't expecting to win. It was weird when they didn't ring the bell. It took awhile to sink in."
Christopher O'Connor, Spelling bee winner
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org