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'This has been my dream,' spelling bee winner says

  • Story Highlights
  • Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, wins in fourth trip to national finals
  • The 13-year-old eighth-grader will receive $40,000 in cash and prizes
  • Focus on task keeps cameras and media from distracting her, Kavya says
  • Girl may return to scene if younger sister does well in future competitions
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(CNN) -- The winner of the 82nd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee said Friday she is "pretty excited" but a little tired.

Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, reacts to winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.

Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, reacts to winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.

"This has been my dream for so long; I've always wanted to win the bee," Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, told CNN. "I was just really excited when I was able to go up and spell the last word."

The eighth-grader won $40,000 in cash and prizes for nailing the final word, "Laodicean," which means lukewarm or indifferent, particularly in matters of politics or religion.

This year's bee -- an event that has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to exposure on television and in movies -- started Tuesday in Washington with a record 293 spellers. Kavya endured 15 rounds.

In an event that has seen contestants crack under the strain of the national spotlight, Kavya -- competing in her fourth national finals -- appeared composed throughout. Video Watch the poised winner describe the thrill »

As she spelled words such as "phoresy," "hydrargyrum" and "huisache," she calmly went through the routine of asking each word's pronunciation, origin and roots before ticking their spellings off for the judges.

"I focus so much on my word; I don't really pay attention to all the cameras and photographers and all the media in front of me," she said Friday.

Kavya's father, who is her spelling coach, would tap his foot in time as she spelled the words, and at one point he appeared so confident that he waved to someone while his daughter was in the middle of spelling a word.

Second-place finisher Tim Ruiter of Reston, Virginia, bowed out after misspelling "Maecenas," meaning a generous patron of the arts.

Kavya said she would miss competing in the spelling bee, as the rules do not permit her to enter next year.

"It was such a big part of my life, and I love doing it," she said. However, she may someday have a new role in the competition. "If my [little] sister gets to D.C. sometime soon, I'd really love to help and coach her," she said.


Kavya attends California Trail Junior High School in the Kansas City suburb. Her hobbies include swimming, cycling and traditional Indian dance, according to the contest's Web site. She plans on becoming a neurosurgeon.

The first National Spelling Bee took place in 1925, with five contestants.

CNN's Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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