WASHINGTON — No theatrical flourishes for Anamika Veeramani. She kept her hands behind her back and rattled off the letters of every word she was given — until she was crowned the spelling bee champion.
The 14-year-old girl from North Royalton, Ohio, won the 83rd Scripps National Spelling Bee on Friday, acing the medical word "stromuhr" (an instrument that measures the speed of blood flow) to claim the winner's trophy and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Anamika became the third consecutive Indian-American bee champion, and the eighth in the past 12 years. It's a run that began when Nupur Lala won in 1999 and was featured in the documentary "Spellbound."
Anamika was one of the favorites among the 273 spellers who began the three-day competition, having finished tied for fifth last year. She stood deadpan while the audience cheered, not cracking a smile until the trophy was presented.
There was a three-way tie for second. Adrian Gunawan, 14, of Arlington Heights, Ill.; Elizabeth Platz, 13, of Shelbina, Mo.; and Shantanu Srivatsa, 13, of West Fargo, N.D., were all eliminated in the same round.
Anamika survived the round by spelling "juvia" — a Brazil nut — and then had to wait for a nerve-racking 3 1/2-minute commercial break before spelling the championship word.
The finals were preceded by an unpopular move that had some spellers and the parents claiming the bee was unfair and had kowtowed too much to television.
Concerned that there wouldn't be enough spellers left to fill the two-hour slot on ABC, organizers stopped the semifinals in the middle of a round Friday afternoon — and declared that the 10 spellers onstage would advance to the prime-time broadcast, including six who didn't have to spell a word in the interrupted round. Essentially, the alphabetical order of the U.S. states helped determine which spellers got to move on the marquee event.
It's one of the pitfalls of the growing popularity of the bee, which has to yield to the constraints of its television partners. There were 19 spellers left at the start of the round, which was too many for prime-time. But when the round turned out to be brutal — nine of the first 13 misspelled — ABC was on the verge of having too few.