An eighth-grader from New York was crowned champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday after he correctly spelled "knaidel."
"I know this, I got this,"
Arvind Mahankali, 13, told CNN Friday as he recalled his reaction when he heard what the winning word was. The audience immediately erupted into applause as Mahankali finished spelling the German-derived Yiddish word, which means dumping.
Mahankali, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., had come in third in two previous national spelling bees, but emerged champion in Thursday's contest, which would be his last. After eighth grade, students are no longer eligible for the competition.
"It means that I am retiring on a good note," Mahankali, who attends Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 and has dreams of becoming a physicist, told CNN. "I shall spend the summer, maybe the entire day, studying physics."
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The annual contest awards the winner $32,500 in cash and savings bonds, a trophy, and a library of reference materials.
According to CNN, 11 million schoolchildren participated in preliminaries leading up to the national contest this week. Of those, 281 children made the trip to Oxon Hill, Md., just outside Washington, for the national bee. Eleven spellers made it through to the finals.
For the first time since it began in 1927, the contest required young spellers in preliminary and semifinal rounds to take a vocabulary test.
Organizers also reworked some of the rules this year. An additional computer test was added for the semifinals, time limits on computer-based spelling and vocabulary tests were imposed, and a rule was added that resulted in automatic elimination for any participant who misspelled a word on stage in the second or third rounds.
Last year's winner was Snigdha Nandipati, a San Diego eighth-grader, who was crowned champ after correctly spelling "guetapens," which means an ambush.
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