"How's it going?" Dr. Bailly asked.
"Oh, I don't even know any more," said Erin Howard, speller 36, an Alabama sixth grader.
She misspelled Klydonograph, which is used for an instrument that makes a photographic record of electric surges in power lines.
Erin said she never really expected to be here - and that she'd already improved on her finish from last year, when she tied for 22nd place.
"Honestly, I'm not even nervous," she said. "I'm here, I'm in the top 15 of the National Spelling Bee. "Anything else is further icing on the cake."
Erin keeps a voodoo Spartan keychain in her pocket for luck. She said she considers herself a word collector.
Her favorite is eggcorn, a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another.