The 86th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee featured 281 bright, young minds who traveled to Maryland for the 2013 finals, but unfortunately for them, only one speller could come out on top.
The 15 grueling rounds of competition featured both a multiple-choice vocabulary test in the early stages and the traditional on-stage spelling battles we've grown accustomed to seeing during the ESPN broadcast. In the end, Arvind Mahankali captured the Bee by spelling "knaidel" correctly.
The Bee's official Twitter account had the news as Mahankali survived over 11 million students who competed to participate in Spelling Bee competitions this year:
As noted by ESPN's Stats & Info, Mahankali became just the third young competitor from New York to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee:
Arvind Mahankali: 3rd speller from New York to win Scripps National Spelling Bee. His winning word was "knaidel"— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 31, 2013
Here's how the 11 spellers who qualified for the championship finals finished after Mahankali ended the competition at the Gaylord National.
|1||Arvind Mahankali||13||New York||4th||-|
|3||Sriram Hathwar||13||New York||4th||Ptyalagogue|
Mahankali will receive $30,000 in cash, the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, a complete reference library and over $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopædia Britannica.
The finalists will also receive cash prizes for their efforts. You can find a list of every award given to the 2013 Spelling Bee participants here (via SpellingBee.com).
Dr. Jacques Bailly served as the official pronouncer of the Bee for the 10th straight competition. Bailly was the 1980 champion, and he guided Mahankali through the final word just as he has for every other speller for years.
Bailly's tie was also an early highlight as the cameras got a close-up (via Peter Sokolowski):
The finals started with Round 7, as the 11 participants all gathered on stage one last time for Thursday night's winner-take-all battle of wits. Just one participant (Nikitha Chandran) misspelled her word in the opening round of the evening broadcast, but that's not to say the opening round lacked intrigue.
Amber Born, a 14-year-old from Massachusetts, was one of those opening-round gems. She lists comedy and writing as her two future career paths, and she had this question for Dr. Bailly, as tweeted by USA Today's Natalie DiBlasio:
"Is the sentence funny?" asks Amber Born (she wants to be a comedian when she grows up) Audience laughs "Let's try it" says Dr. Bailly.— Natalie DiBlasio (@ndiblasio) May 31, 2013
Betsy Morais of The New Yorker also made a public pitch for Hollywood actress Mindy Kaling to reach out to Born in the days following the Bee:
Born continued her comedy routine until she was knocked out in Round 12, going so far as to say "that's cause for panic" after hearing one of her questions answered by the panel. She was the last girl standing, ending a four-year streak of females winning the event.
Another funny moment came during the sentence portion of Dr. Bailly's explanations (a recurring theme during the broadcast) when Arrested Development fans had a nice laugh and an appreciative nod to the sentence Bailly used to describe the given word.
The list of words spelled by these young minds during the course of the competition are so demanding that it would be an injustice to try and rank them by difficulty. Instead, here's a few words that caught our eyes (spelled correctly, mind you) as the competition moved forward and the field whittled down throughout the evening:
After Born exited, only Hathwar, Mahankali and Sivakumar remained. The format moved to a 25-word list that, if completed correctly, would make all the remaining competitors co-champions under the official rules of the Bee.
Mahankali made sure that wasn't necessary.
German words had plagued the young New Yorker in both of his previous top-three finishes, and he had two chances to squash those demons in the 2013 Bee—his final year of eligibility.
He broke that initial curse by spelling this word correctly (as noted by Vocabulary.com on Twitter):
Arvind Mahankali breaks the curse of German! Correctly spells "dehnstufe" (lengthened vowel grade in Indo-European ablaut) #spellingbee— Vocabulary.com (@VocabularyCom) May 31, 2013
He then had a coy smile brewing at the corners of his mouth when Dr. Bailly announced the final word—knaidel—and asked the questions necessary to produce the correct seven-letter spelling to capture the national title.
It was a storybook ending for one of the most beloved competitors in Scripps National Spelling Bee history.
A big congratulations goes out to everyone who competed in the finals, the preliminaries and any event under the Scripps National Spelling Bee label this year. After Mahankali's performance, there's no doubt youngsters will start picking up their dictionaries to beef up on definitions, origins and prefix/suffix meanings in preparation for the 2014 Bee.
*Information from the Scripps National Spelling Bee's official website was used to compile this report.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant on Twitter. He was a one-time second-place finisher in his sixth-grade spelling bee: