Aritra Banerjee, speller 277, is a New Jersey sixth grader. He tied for 42nd place last year.
This year, he misspelled "yertchuk," a medium-sized Australian eucalypt with rough, flaky bark and pale, gummy timber.
"It's really good to be back," he said Wednesday. "I'm really excited."
Aritra said he was glad to be a finalist.
"When I heard my name, I was thinking about all those hours that I worked, and they're all paying off."
Aritra said he likes playing video games and basketball when he's not spelling, as well as piano and cello.
He's glad that younger spellers will look up to him, as he's looked up to others.
"I used to think, 'Wow, they're so good at spelling. I'm never going to be that way,'" he said. "It feels good, to have other kids looking up at me."