Amidst high drama, nail-biting silence and increasingly vexatious wordsincluding pachymeter, phylactery and foudroyant Rebecca Sealfon of New York City was crowned the National Spelling Bee Champion. She earned a years bragging rights as the United States top student spell-checker, along with $5,000, a laptop computer, an encyclopedia and a $1,000 savings bond.
Going into todays final round in Washington, D.C., three kidsout of an original 245 contestantshung on to the tough and bitter end. Rebecca Sealfon of New York, Prem Trivedi of New Jersey and Sudheer Potru of Michigan, battled it out like true pros, displaying their spectacular spelling prowess every step of the way.
Then Potru stumbled on pachymeter which he spelled as p-a-c-h-i-m-e-t-e-r.
Trivedi and Sealfon still stood strong, but then in Round 17 both missed their wordsanalemma and dulcineakeeping the two in the ring.
But Trivedi was eliminated on cortile, which he spelled c-o-r-t-i-l-l-e. And so, in Round 22, Sealfon became the champ as she joyfully shouted out the spelling of e-u-o-n-y-m. Previous contestants had already been eliminated by such words as hebetude (dullness), plangorous, (wailing), ginglymus (a hinge joint admitting of motion in one plane only), myrmecologist (a specialist in the scientific study of ants) and phonasthenia (hoarseness of voice).
The competition, which began in 1925, has become more difficult each year to keep pace with the increasingly complex English language and increasingly educated contestants.
Frank Neuhauser, winner of the inaugural championship in 1925, correctly spelled gladiolus, the flower.
By contrast, to take the top prize last year, Wendy Guey of West Palm Beach, Fla., had to spell vivisepulture, the act or practice of burying alive.
The final two hours of the Spelling Bee were broadcast live from 1 to 3 p.m. EDT on ESPN, and the championships Web site, www.spellingbee.com, features nearly simultaneous updating.
The championship contestants, all younger than 16, came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Palau, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. military posts around the world.