Texas teen wins 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee

Credit: Chip Somodevilla

Credit: Chip Somodevilla

A Texas teen made believers out of a competitive field as he won the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.

Karthik Nemmani, 14, of McKinney, Texas correctly spelled "koinonia" -- which is defined as "the Christian fellowship or body of believers" -- to defeat the largest field in the Bee's history. Nemmani stood alone after 514 other competitors were eliminated.

"I had confidence, but I didn't really think it would happen," Nemmani told WFAA. "I'm just really happy. This has just been a dream come true."

Nemmani won more than $40,000 cash, the Scripps trophy, and trips to New York and Los Angeles for national television appearances.

Naysa Modi, 12, of Frisco, Texas, placed second, WFAA reported. The four-time participant misspelled "Bewusstseinslage," which is "a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components."

Nemmani had met Modi on the spelling stage before the Scripps Bee, though. He was runner up to her in their Collin County spelling bee, WFAA reported. When asked if having her up there helped him, he said, "Yeah, I guess. I guess it gave me a little more confidence."

The Bee reached its final two spellers in Round 17.

On-stage competition began Tuesday after spellers took a written test, which played a large part in determining which spellers qualified for the finals, WFAA reported.

The field was expanded to 515 spellers to accommodate wild cards — there had never been more than 300 competitors — and four qualified through the "RSVBee" program, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Nemmani and Modi live 15 miles apart. The third-place finisher, Abhijay Kodali, lives in Flower Mound, also in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Times reported.

As for when Nemmani knew he'd win with the word koinonia?

"When I heard it," he told WFAA.

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