"It was kind of a different challenge," said Vismaya Kharkar, 14, of Bountiful, Utah, who finished tied for 5th place. "I've been focusing my studying on the spelling for years and years."
The vocabulary tests were administered in a quiet room away from the glare of the onstage parts of the bee. The finals were the same as always: no vocabulary, just spellers trying to avoid the doomsday bell.
The crowd favorite on the final day of competition was fourth-place finisher Amber Born, 14, of Marblehead, Mass. Amber has wanted to be a comedy writer from the time she first saw the pilot episode of "Seinfeld" and had no trouble displaying her sense of humor, especially after she got to watch herself featured on an ESPN promo that also aired on the jumbo screen inside the auditorium.
After the promo was over, she approached the microphone and, referring to herself, deadpanned: "She seemed nice."
Vanya Shivashankar, at 11 the youngest of the finalists, fell short in her bid to become the second half of the first pair of sibling champions. Her sister, Kavya, won in 2009. Vanya finished tied for 5th after misspelling "zenaida," a type of pigeon.