New Jersey 13-year-old wins national spelling bee, first girl since 1999

By Darlene Superville: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A 13-year-old New Jersey girl making her fifth straight appearance at the Scripps National Spelling Bee rattled off “ursprache” to claim the title of America’s best speller Thursday on prime-time television.

Katharine Close, an eighth-grader at the H.W. Mountz School in Spring Lake, N.J., is the first girl since 1999 to win the national spelling title. She stepped back from the microphone and put her hands to her mouth upon being declared the winner. She recognized the word as soon as she heard it.

“I couldn’t believe it. I knew I knew how to spell the word and I was just in shock,” said Katharine, who tied for seventh-place last year. “I couldn’t believe I would win.”
Asked what she’ll remember most, she said: “Probably just hearing ’ursprache”’ — which means a parent language.

Katharine goes home with more than $42,000 in cash and prizes, including an engraved trophy cup.

Runner-up was Finola Mei Hwa Hackett, a 14-year-old Canadian, a confident speller during two days of competition who nonetheless stumbled on “weltschmerz.” The word means a type of mental depression.

Regional champion Lucas Donaldson of Zia Elementary was eliminated in the second round Wednesday by the word ronquil, which is a family of fish that live on the northwest coast of North America. He was the 62nd speller elimnated.