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 from North Royalton, Ohio, won the 83d Scripps National Spelling Bee on Friday night, acing the medical word stromuhr - an instrument for measuring the velocity 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 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 31/2-minute commercial before spelling the championship word.
Among the finalists was Joanna Ye, 13, of Carlisle, Pa., who misspelled tailleur (a woman's tailored suit). Joanna is a seventh grader at Lamberton Middle School.
Two other Pennsylvanians made it to Friday's semifinals but not to the final round. Neel Mehta, 14, of Audubon, Montgomery County, an eighth grader at Arcola Intermediate School participating in his second straight national bee, missed on troco (an old English game). And Sukanya Roy, 14, a seventh grader in Clarks Summit, stumbled on hyleg, which is an astrological term.
The finals were preceded by an unpopular move that had some spellers and the parents saying 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 did not 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 in the marquee event.
"I would rather have five finalists than five who didn't deserve it," said Elizabeth Platz, the finalist from Missouri and one of the four spellers who spelled a word correctly before the round was stopped. "I think it was unfair."