Karthik Nemmani, a soft-spoken eighth-grader from McKinney, Texas, hadn't been to the National Spelling Bee before, but he had already been in a battle with 12-year-old Naysa Modi.
Abhijay Kodali, 11, of Flower Mound, Texas, tied for third, lasting until Round 16.
Spellers who have advanced to the evening round pose for a group picture after round eight of the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center May 31, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland.
The end of the biggest Scripps National Spelling Bee in history came abruptly, and it wasn't the conclusion that many expected.
The past 13 champions and 18 of the last 22 have been Indian-American, and that trend could easily continue.
Oh, and the meaning of that winning word, koinonia?
He showed his aptitude for spelling early, arranging block letters to form the word "horse" at age three, said his father, Krishna Nemmani.
The bee ended in a tie for three consecutive years from 2014-2016, but that nearly certainly won't happen this year because the 16 finalists all took a written tiebreaker test.More news: Assad: US and Western Allies Need to Pull Troops Out of Syria
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The victor receives $42,500 in cash, plus other prizes. In addition to the trophy, he gets more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Karthik also used study materials compiled by two well-regarded former Scripps spellers and fellow Texans, Shobha Dasari and her younger brother, Shourav, who finished fourth previous year and won almost every other bee he competed in.
"He just really wanted to get it", he said.
The dramatic final rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee are set to begin.
She said she struggled with the "ae" because that's not normally seen in German.
He told Bee Week, a Spelling Bee news publication, that there were only about six words that he didn't know all day. "We weren't against each other". The 50 kids with the best preliminary test score and best onstage score in rounds two and three advance to the coveted final round.
A record-shattering 516 spellers qualified - compared to 291 the year before.