OXON HILL, Md. — Snigdha Nandipati heard a few words she didn't know at the National Spelling Bee, but never when she stepped to the microphone.
Calm and collected, the San Diego 14-year-old spelled "guetapens," a French-derived word that means ambush, snare or trap, to win the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. She beat eight other finalists in the nerve-wracking, brain-busting competition.
After she spelled the word, she looked from side to side, as if unsure her accomplishment was real, and, oddly, she was not immediately announced as the winner. Applause built slowly, and confetti trickled out before showering her. Then her younger brother ran on stage and embraced her, and she beamed.
"I knew it. I'd seen it before," Nandipati said of the winning word. "I just wanted to ask everything I could before I started spelling."
A coin collector and Sherlock Holmes fan, Nandipati aspires to be a physician or neurosurgeon. She plays violin and is fluent in Telugu, a language spoken in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
A semifinalist last year, Nandipati is the fifth consecutive Indian-American winner and 10th in the last 14 years.
Stuti Mishra, 14, of West Melbourne, finished second after misspelling "schwarmerei" — which means excessive, unbridled enthusiasm. Coming in third for the second straight year was Arvind Mahankali of Bayside Hills, N.Y. At 12, he was the youngest finalist and he has one more year of eligibility.
Nandipati's winnings include $30,000 in cash, a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship, $2,600 in reference works from the Encyclopedia Britannica and an online language course.