12-year-old Ananya Vinay has just become the champion of the 90th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, marking the first time since 2013 the competition did not end in a tie.
Her winning word was “marocain,” which refers to a dress fabric of ribbed crepe. In second place was eighth grader Rohan Rajeev, who misspelled the word “marram” (a type of beach grass) and lost out on his last chance to win the National Bee.
Ananya, who hails from Fresno, California, is the 13th consecutive Indian-American winner. This year, the bee added a tiebreaker challenge which made Rohan and Ananya battle it out for up to 25 rounds. Ananya won on the 21st. “It was interesting to go back-and-forth for so many rounds,” she said.
Ananya had clearly spent a rigorous amount of time studying and preparing, as she never looked fazed by any of her 35 words, which included “zeaxanthin,” “wayzgoose,” and “gifblaar.” “I knew them all,” she said. She didn’t look surprised by her victory until her family ran up to the stage to hug her, prompting a smile. She later took time to comfort Rohan on his loss.
She won a $40,000 prize and plans to split it with her seven-year-old brother, and save her share to pay for her college education.
Ananya was the youngest finalist. The youngest competitor this year was six-year-old Edith Fuller, who was also the youngest person to ever compete in the bee. She was knocked out in one of the earlier rounds because she did not score high enough on the written test.