Oxon Mill, MD. -- Ananya Vinay showed little emotion until she finally let a smile slip and lifted the Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy.
The 12-year-old from Fresno, California, won the spelling competition Thursday night after numerous rounds against Rohan Rajeev. They were the last two standing of the initial 291 spellers.
"I just focused on my word and tried to spell it right," she said.
The winning word was "marocain," which is a dress fabric that is made with a warp of silk or rayon and a filling of other yarns.
After she was proclaimed the champion, she rocked side-to-side, barely smiling until her dad rushed to hug her. As the rest of her family joined her, the new champ finally let her happiness show.
"It's a like a dream come true. I am so happy right now," she said.
Ananya was crowned the winner of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee held in Oxon Mill, Maryland, a suburb of the nation's capital. She spelled 35 words correctly.
She is taking home a $40,000 grand prize and plenty of bragging rights.
Still holding the trophy, the Golden State Warriors fan wished her team good luck in the ongoing NBA finals. "Go Curry," she said in an ESPN interview.
A nerve-racking final
Round after round, 15 of 291 spellers in the competition battled for the top prize during Thursday's final.
This year's favorite, Shourav Dasari, an eighth-grader from Texas, surprised the audience. In a move that showed his confidence, he spelled "mogollon" and he quickly turned around to walk to his seat. It was a few rounds later that he stumbled on the word "struldbrug" and placed fourth in the competition.
Mira Dedhia, an eighth-grader from Illinois finished third. She was aiming to become first the child of a previous competitor to win. Her mother, Lekshmi Nair, competed in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
After 12 hours of competition, only two contestants were still in the running. Ananya and Rohan, an eighth-grader from Edmond, Oklahoma, went head to head for almost 20 rounds.
"It was interesting to go back-and-forth for so many rounds," she said.
They looked confident as they spelled their words through the night until Rohan looked down, shaking his head. He took the second place when he failed to spell the word "marram," (a type of coarse perennial grass).
Ananya is the first outright winner in a while. For each of the past three years, the bee ended in ties after the contestants successfully completed the competition's entire list of words.
Last year, Jairam Hathwar of New York spelled "feldenkrais" (a method of exercise therapy) and Nihar Janga of Texas spelled "gesellschaft" (social relations held together by impersonal ties), giving them a joint title.
To end that scourge of ties, the spelling bee introduced a written "tiebreaker test" this year. If there was a tie at the end of the bee, the speller with the better score on the written test would have been named the champ.
'A nonsense word'
Then, Ananya encountered "covfefe."
Appearing on CNN's "New Day" Friday, she was asked by anchors Alisyn Camerota and Chris Cuomo to spell the typo made by President Donald Trump in an apparent Twitter misfire this week that quickly went viral.
"Language of origin?" she inquired.
"Gibberish," Cameota and Cuomo replied.
"Part of speech?" asked Ananya, further trying to map the word in her vast mental vocabulary.
She finally ventured a guess, which was just barely wrong, at least according to the President's spelling of the non-word.
"C-O-F-E-F-E?" she guessed, while giggling could be heard in the background.
"Good enough!" Cuomo said.
"You win!" Camerota said. "Again, it was a nonsense word."