LAWRENCEVILLE -- Suwanee Elementary School fourth-grader Shruthi Santhanam never expected to win the 2010 Gwinnett County Spelling Bee.
In fact, she almost didn't.
During the fourth round of the oral bee Saturday, Shruthi was among a string of contestants who left the stage after misspelling a word. In fact, each of the remaining nine contestants made errors.
"Premonition," "hircine," "geosynchronous," "ichthyosaur," "tachycardia," "obstreperous" and "ornithophilous" knocked out the first seven of the remaining contestants. With two spellers left on the stage, the caller read the elimination rules for when two contestants remain and read the word: "glossolalia."
According to the rules, when two spellers remain on stage and one misspells a word, the other student has a chance to spell the word before the correct spelling is given. If both misspell the word, neither is eliminated.
Both of the students -- Sabarish Suinathan of Gwin Oaks Elementary and Rohan Ramdeholl of Level Creek Elementary -- misspelled the word. That's when Shruthi's dad stood up to protest.
"I knew it wasn't fair," Shruthi said of that round. "I asked my dad to protest."
The spelling bee coordinator and judges decided to bring all of the children eliminated in that round back into the competition.
"I was so happy I almost ran back onto the stage," Shruthi said.
Back in the game, Shruthi said she thought to herself, "I have to get this word right."
The fifth round of play led to six eliminations, leaving three students on stage. Shruthi correctly spelled "tiramisu" in that round.
In the sixth round, Jones Middle School student was eliminated on "echinacea," leaving Shruthi and Chattahoochee Elementary student Henry Gao as the final two spellers. Shruthi spelled "fulguration" and Henry spelled "portcullis" before the caller reread the new elimination rules.
There were a few missteps in the final portion of the bee -- Shruthi correctly spelled "ennui," a word Henry missed, but both of the spellers made errors with "vicinage."
Shruthi recovered, spelling "futilitarian" next. She couldn't contain her smile when Henry missed "felicitous." She spelled that word and the next -- "mosquitoey" -- to win the bee.
"I'm really, really happy," she said. "I never thought I would win, because the words were so hard."
As an elementary student, Shruthi was one of the younger contestants in the oral bee. Eight of the 12 spellers in the oral competition are in middle school.
"We thought we were dead meat, but we weren't," Shruthi said of being one of the four elementary students on stage.
Shruthi said she spends two to three hours per day -- and more on the weekends -- studying spelling.
She and the 11 other participants in the oral bee will advance to the district bee, which will take place on Feb. 27 at North Gwinnett High School. The 12 participants in the oral bee won their spots in the written competition, which took place immediately before the oral competition.
Shruthi won $200 in the Gwinnett Daily Post-sponsored bee. Henry won $75, and the other finalists won cash prizes.
The other spellers
* Hull Middle School student Leigh Johnson, eliminated on "chimichanga"
* Crews Middle School student Brittany Nguyen, eliminated on "keratin"
* North Gwinnett Middle School student Elton Losner, eliminated on "vehemence"
* Couch Middle School student Peter John, eliminated on "synoptophore"
* Osborne Middle School student Mackenzie Mincey, eliminated on "primogeniture"
* Twin Rivers Middle School student Stephen Jenkins, eliminated on "usurious"
* Trickum Middle School student Ayesha Murshed, eliminated on "helicoidal"
* Gwin Oaks Elementary School student Sabarish Suinathan, eliminated on "sphygmometer"
* Level Creek Elementary School student Rohan Ramdeholl, eliminated on "resinogenous"
* Jones Middle School student Jonathan Moon, eliminated on "echinacea"
* Chattahoochee Elementary School student Henry Gao, eliminated on "felicitous."