OXON HILL, Md. (NEWSnet/AP) — Bruhat Soma, a seventh-grader from Florida, took the lead over seven other finalists to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday.

The competition included a lightning-round tiebreaker dubbed a “spell-off” in which he recited 30 words in 90 seconds. He spelled 29 of them correctly, nine more than his nearest competitor, Faizan Zaki.

As the champion, Bruhat receives a trophy and more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.

“I was pretty confident that I had a chance at winning because I’ve been working so hard,” Bruhat said, explaining his rationale for spending so much time on a tiebreaker he might not even need. “And I really wanted to win. That’s why I practiced the spell-off so much.”

Scripps said Bruhat’s winning word was “abseil,” defined as “descent in mountaineering by means of a rope looped over a projection above.”

In the tiebreaker — which was used once before, in 2022 — the winning word is the one that gives a speller one more correct word than their competitor.

Bruhat said there was one word Thursday night he didn’t know: “tennesi,” a monetary unit of Turkmenistan.

Bruhat is the second straight champion from the Tampa Bay area. His parents immigrated from India.

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