SAN DIEGO, Ca. - Fourteen-year-old Snigdha Nandipati of San Diego, whose Indian first name means "flowing with honey," won the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.
She correctly spelled "guetapens," which means ambush, to win in the 13th round. Her younger brother rushed to the stage to hug her around the waist.
Nine spellers made the finals for tonight's prime-time broadcast of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, including a Denver-area 14-year-old who said he was surprised even to make the semifinals.
Eighth-grader Frank Cahill of Parker, Colo., faced the national spotlight after winning with words such as "drosophila," the fruit fly used in genetics; "cannelon," an Italian puff pastry; and "guilloche," a pattern in metalwork. But his undoing came in the eighth round with "porwigle," a tadpole.
Nicholas Rushlow, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Pickerington, Ohio, was among the top contenders, returning to the Bee for the fifth time. He went out on the ninth round by misspelling "vetiver," an aromatic grass.
Six-year-old Lori Anne Madison, the youngest national contestant in Bee history, was still in the spotlight, despite being eliminated Wednesday after preliminary rounds that included a computerized test and onstage spelling.
Wearing a yellow-and-black bee-embellished hat, Lori Anne, a home-schooled second-grader from Woodbridge, Va., held a pre-Bee session press conference, during which she drew business cards to choose which reporters could ask her questions.
The media attention, ranging from appearances on ABC News to features in newspapers nationwide, was "stressful" and "overwhelming," she acknowledged, but she vowed to return to the Bee.
"I'll be here next year," Lori Anne said. "But I won't be the youngest."
The 85th annual Bee featured 278 regional winners from across the United States and eight other countries: the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Just 50 advanced to the Thursday semifinals.
Many of Thursday's spellers had been on the same stage in years past. Rahul Malayappan, 12, of Danbury, Conn., fell in the fifth round in his fifth national bee. Fourth-timer Gina Solomito, 14, of Indianapolis -- who spelled "ditokous," producing two eggs, and "Gotterdammerung," the violent collapse of society -- failed on "bisbigliandro," a music direction given to harpists.
Just nine of the semifinalists were eliminated in the fourth round, falling to "phalarope," a shorebird; "freddo," meaning cold or passionless, used as a direction in music; and "tendenz," a dominating point of view. Fifth-round spellers fell to "Liederkranz," a soft, pugent cheese variety; "athanor," a furnace used by alchemists; and "calo," a language that influenced the argot of bullfighters.
Many missed the correct spelling of sometimes-lengthy scientific words by just one letter, such as "araphorostic," meaning lacking seams, and "thysanopterist," an insect specialist.
Besides Lori Anne, some young spellers had enormous stage presence. When 10-year-old Vanya Shivashankar, from Olathe, Kan., was told the origin of her word, "mascalage," meaning harvesting of cork oaks, she told pronouncer Jacques Bailly, "That helps." She disqualified on "pejerrey," a fish resembling a mackerel.
Two Canadians made the semis, but only one international speller, Gifton Samuel Wright, 14, from Spanish Town, Jamaica, competed in the finals.
The Bee is "an example of the American culture and the melting pot that we are, how the English language transforms and brings in all kinds of other sources to create what we call the American language," said E.W. Scripps CEO and President Rich Boehne.
Even more countries may be participating in a Scripps Bee in 2013.
Bee director Paige P. Kimble announced to participants Tuesday that Scripps was in the early stages of launching a worldwide contest, gauging interest and formulating rules.
The international bee, which would be conducted in English and be separate from the existing U.S. contest, would pit national teams -- likely made up of three children each -- against each other for global glory.
Snigdha, the champion, received a $30,000 cash prize and engraved trophy from Scripps, presented by Boehne.
Other prizes include a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster; a $5,000 scholarship from Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation; $2,600 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica, including the final print edition and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium; and an online language course and a Nook Color e-reader from Middlebury Interactive Languages; and the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award -- a 2012 U.S. Mint Proof Set and certificate presented by Jay Sugarman in honor of his father.