A smile spread across 14-year-old Sukanya Roy's face even before she finished spelling her final word at the 84th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday. That's because she already knew she had won.
The eighth-grader out-spelled 274 other contestants from across the nation and around the world to take the top prize in the 2011 bee. The winning word: cymotrichous (sye-mah-trah-kuhs), which means "having wavy hair."
Last Speller Standing
When Sukanya completed the last word, she held her hand over her mouth in excitement. "It's surreal," says the teen of her win. "It's hard to find the words." Yes, that's right, even after spelling all night!
Sukanya's victory makes her the fourth Indian-American in a row, and the ninth in the past 13 years, to win the Scripps title. She will take home an engraved trophy and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. Sukanya, who is from South Abington Township, Pennsylvania, also took part in the 2009 and 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bees. She tied for 12th place in 2009 and for 20th place in 2010.
The three-day competition took place in National Harbor, Maryland. Contestants ranged in age from 8 to 15. Of the 275 total spellers, 13 made it to the finals, which aired live on ESPN on Thursday night.
Laura Newcombe, of Toronto, Canada, came in second place. The 12-year-old is also a repeat contestant, tying for 17th place in the 2009 bee and tying for fifth in the 2010 bee. Laura was trying to become the first Canadian to win the bee. She misspelled the word sorites (suh-rye-teez) in Round 19. On representing her country, Laura says, "I was proud, happy and felt this was a privilege."
This is Sukanya's final year competing in the bee. But she has plenty of other things to keep her busy. The teen enjoys hiking, rock climbing and ice skating. She also plays the piano and violin. And this summer, she will travel to the Panama rain forest with her school's ecology club.
For now, however, Sukanya is still soaking up the sweet spell of success. "It's just amazing," she says.