(NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.) — Karthik Nemmani won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, after correctly spelling the word “koinonia.”
Koinonia means a Christian fellowship or body of believers, according to Merriam-Webster.
The 14-year-old from McKinney, Texas, beat out 516 spellers this year, the highest number of competitors in the bee’s decadeslong history.
After receiving his trophy onstage, the eighth-grader said he felt “really happy.” Karthik added that as soon as he heard the pronouncer say the word “koinonia,” he knew he was going to win.
Karthik’s orthographic prowess won him the competition’s $40,000 cash prize and the opportunity to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, in addition to a handful of other prizes.
Runner-up Naysa Modi, 12, from Frisco, Texas, was eliminated from the final round after she misspelled the word “bewusstseinslage,” meaning a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components, according to Merriam-Webster. Naysa tied for seventh place last year, tied for 46th place the year before and tied for 50th place in 2015.
The competition this year was cutthroat. The hundreds of precocious spellers, ranging in age from 8 to 15, stepped out from all 50 states. Moreover, a change in how spellers were invited to this year’s bee drew hundreds more spellers than in past years.
After competing in fierce local rounds, the top spellers convened in National Harbor, Maryland, for the national finals.
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