WASHINGTON Snigdha Nandipati, a 14-year-old eighth grader from San Diego, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday by correctly spelling "guetapens," a French word for an ambush.
Second place went to Stuti Mishra, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Orlando, Florida, who finished in second place after misspelling "schwarmerei," a German word for excessive enthusiasm.
Arvind Mahankali, a 12-year-old seventh grader from Bayside Hills, New York, finished third for a second year in a row after failing to spell "schwannoma," a kind of nerve cell tumor.
The three were among nine finalists winnowed from 278 contestants who started the spelling contest on Wednesday.
The finalists were among the survivors of the 50 young spellers aged 10 to 14 who started Thursday's semi-final rounds and were tripped up by words including "tendenz," a literary term, and "polynee," a type of pastry.
The tense competition took place onstage at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just south of Washington.
The audience, filled with families, was tense as the young contestants haltingly spelled words well above the reading levels of their respective grades in school.
The spellers employed a range of strategies, from writing out words on the palms of their hands with their fingers to asking for a word's language of origin.
The final competition was aired live on the ESPN Sports network.
Nandipati, who reads encyclopedias for pleasure, won a $30,000 cash prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a $5,000 scholarship, among other prizes.
Several spellers who had been favored to do well stumbled on Thursday.
Ten-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, the younger sister of 2009 champion Kavya Shivashankar, misspelled "pejerrey," a type of fish.
Six-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Woodbridge, Virginia, the youngest participant ever to qualify for the bee, failed to make it past the preliminary round after incorrectly spelling the word "ingluvies," the crop of a bird or insect.
Jacques Bailly, the 1980 Bee champion and the official pronouncer of the Bee, read the words for contestants in the final round.
Last year's winner was 14-year-old Sukanya Roy from South Abington Township, Pennsylvania, who spelled "cymotrichous," used to describe having wavy hair.
(Reporting by Lily Kuo; editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)