Justin Tyler Carroll, 14, an Arkansas eighth-grader whose hobbies include solving difficult word puzzles, correctly spelled “xanthosis” Thursday to win the 68th annual national spelling bee.
Grabbing the microphone with both hands, he spelled the winning word - which means a discoloration of the skin - without pausing.
“It’s like a dream,” Justin said of his win. “It’s just unreal.”
In the closing rounds, competitors dropped over such tongue-twisters as “frugivorous” (feeding on fruit) and “smaragdine” (yellowish green).
Justin handled some real jawbreakers himself, such as “haplology” (a word contraction) and “syncretize” (to unite against an enemy).
“I tried to be optimistic throughout that I would get words I knew,” said Justin, who lives in Wynne, Ark., but represented Memphis in the contest. He said he had studied “xanthosis” and that he was “familiar with the words that I got today.”
His mother, first-grade teacher Sharron K. Carroll, helped him drill and said: “No doubt, he’s better than I am.”
Marjory Lavery, a 13-year-old homeschooler from Copley, Ohio, was runner-up. She was eliminated after misspelling “cappelletti,” a type of pasta.
She later said her chances might have been better if she knew more about Italian cuisine. “Pizza’s as Italian as I get,” she said.
Justin was described as an outstanding student and has won the National Science Merit Award, the All-American Scholar Award and the U.S. Mathematics Award.
A record number of children, 247, participated in the annual bee, fielding 835 words.
Sohini Ramachandran, 13, of Sacramento, Calif., whose sister, Rageshree, won the 1988 National Spelling Bee, correctly spelled “irascible” and “uxorious” on her way to the fifth round, where she was stymied by “succedaneum” (an office holder’s replacement).
“You’re just lucky if you get a word you know,” she said. “Nobody can say you know every word in the English language.”
This year’s bee saw the first set of sisters to compete against each other.
Wendy Guey, 11, of West Palm Beach, Fla., was ousted in the fifth round by “mycetophagous,” a word for feeding on fungi. Her sister, Emily, 13, was stopped cold in the fourth round by “doxology” (a short hymn).
Most of the contestants were U.S. residents, though others hailed from Guam, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Europe, Saudi Arabia and American Samoa.Two were third-graders. Half were in the eighth grade - the cutoff.