EDUCATION

Sukanya Roy, 14, wins Scripps National Spelling Bee

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OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — It's what makes the spelling bee such gripping drama. Five competitors were left, and it appeared none of them would ever miss again.

Sukanya Roy is America's top speller in 2011. (Photo: Associated Press)

They correctly rolled off 21 words in a row. Hard ones, like "abhinaya" and "capoeira" and "cheongsam" and "opodeldoc." One of the spellers kept checking another one's watch. It was past bedtime, and long past the time slot that had been allotted by ESPN.

"I was, like, what if they could declare five-way, co-champions?" said Joanna Ye. "I just didn't want to be the first one to break the streak."

"I thought," said Arvind Mahankali, "the five spellers were going to be staying on stage for an eternity."

It turned out that not all five had memorized the entire dictionary. Eventually, four heard the telltale bell of elimination, leaving 14-year-old eighth grader Sukanya Roy of South Abington Township, Pa., to take home the trophy and the more than $40,000 in cash and prizes Thursday at the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"I'm just kind of in shock," Sukanya said. "They were very hard words, but all the words I got, I just knew."

Sukanya's winning word was "cymotrichous," which relates to wavy hair. This was her last chance to participate after tying for 12th in 2009 and 20th last year.

"I went through the dictionary once or twice," Sukanya said, "and I guess some of the words really stuck."

Sukanya likes hiking, rock climbing and ice skating, wants to travel and perhaps pursue a career in international relations. She is the fourth consecutive Indian-American to win the bee and the ninth in the last 13 years, a run that began when Nupur Lala captured the crown in 1999 and was later featured in the documentary "Spellbound."

"They look up to that. But I don't know how that impacted her," said Sukanya's father, Abhijit Roy. "This is not something we pressurized her to do. She wanted to do this by herself, and we basically just helped her along. It's a few years; this didn't happened overnight."

Laura Newcombe of Toronto was the runner-up. The 12-year-old was trying to become the first Canadian to win the bee, but she went out on the word "sorites." Canadians have been a strong presence at the competition for many years and have had several close calls, with Nate Gartke of Alberta also finishing second in 2007.

"I was proud, happy and felt this was a privilege" to represent Canada, she said.

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