The championship of the Scripps National Spelling Bee featured a pair of familiar rivals. Karthik Nemmani and Naysa Modi, both from the Dallas area, squared off in a regional bee in the Spring, with Naysa edging Karthik for the regional bee.
But on Thursday, it was Karthik coming out on top.
After just one championship round of spelling, Karthik was crowned on Thursday as the champion of the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Karthik correctly spelled "koinonia" to clinch the title. By winning the Scripps Spelling Bee, he won $40,000 in cash from the E.W. Scripps Co., and a $2,500 cash prize from Merriam-Webster.
Karthik, in his first national Bee, bested a field that included dozens of returning spellers.
“It's pretty cool to be on stage,” he said. “It's what I've been dreaming of for years now.”
In years past, Karthik would not have received an invite to the Bee, as only those who won regional Bees were invited. But thanks to a new rule, Karthik, along with more than 200 other spellers, were permitted to participate in the 2018 Bee as wild cards.
Due to the new rule, the 2018 Scripps Spelling Bee featured the largest field in the history of the Bee. A total of 516 participated in the Bee, up from 291 a year ago.
"It just goes to show that RSVBee is a very good opportunity for spellers in really hard regionals," Karthik said.
Of the 516 spellers, 41 were invited to participate in the finals on Thursday. The field whittled to 16 who were on stage for primetime.
In the first championship round, Naysa, who still walks away with a cool $30,000, was tripped up by "bewusstseinslage," a German word that means a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components.
Taking advantage of Naysa's mistake, Karthik correctly spelled "haecceitas" before spelling out "koinonia" to win the Bee. Koinonia is a Greek word that means intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.
Karthik gave praise to his opponent Naysa following Thursday's Bee.
"She deserves the trophy just as much if not more than I did," Karthik said.
It took 16 rounds to knock out West Layette, Indiana speller Jashun Paluru, who missed “philonium.” Also getting knocked out after 16 rounds was Abhijay Kodali, who missed “aalii.”