"Thank you so much," said Yolanda Ni, speller 257, as she left the stage.
The Mississippi eighth grader misspelled "hieracium," any plant of a very large and nearly cosmopolitan genus of weedy perennial herbs having simple often basal leaves and heads of yellow or reddish orange ray flowers.
Yolanda correctly spelled blottesque, deplete, emblem, Rehoboam, kaneelhart, hexenbesen, midewiwin, psithyrus and Maillard.
Last year, she tied for 42nd place.
Yolanda put more time into spelling -- and got a spelling coach -- in the hopes of making it to the finals this year. She said she got lucky with her words, but was "ecstatic" to be here.
"It's a dream come true," she said. "I never thought I would make it this far."
Yolanda said she heard a number of words she hadn't heard before in earlier rounds.
"I realize I have a smaller word base than a lot of people," she said.
But she works hard to figure it out.
"It adds a bit of a thrill," she said.
When not spelling, she plays piano and violin.