Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, wins the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Washington. The 82nd annual bee attracted a record 293 participants.
Kavya Shivashankar wrote out every word on her palm and always ended with a smile. The 13-year-old Kansas girl saved the biggest smile for last, when she rattled off the letters to "Laodicean" to become the nation's spelling champion.The kids all did an amazing job.
The budding neurosurgeon from Olathe, Kan., outlasted 11 finalists Thursday night to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, taking home more than $40,000 in cash and prizes and, of course, the huge champion's trophy.
"I can't believe it happened," Kavya said. "It feels kind of unreal."
After spelling the winning word, which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics, Kavya got huge hugs from father Mirle, mother Sandy and little sister Vanya.
Kavya won in her fourth appearance at the bee, having finished 10th, eighth and fourth over the last three years. She enjoys playing the violin, bicycling, swimming and learning Indian classical dance, and her role model is Nupur Lala, the 1999 champion featured in the documentary "Spellbound."
Second place went to 12-year-old Tim Ruiter of Centreville, Va., the only non-teenager in the finals. He misspelled "Maecenas," which means a cultural benefactor.
"I had absolutely no clue about that word," Tim said. "I was just racking my brain for anything possible that could help me. I'll probably be spelling it in my sleep tonight."
Aishwarya Pastapur, 13, from Springfield, Ill., who loved to pump her arm and exclaim "Yes!" after getting a word correct, finished third after flubbing "menhir", a type of monolith.