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Tears were shed, high-fives exchanged and victory poses struck at the dramatic conclusion to the 2012 Spelling Bee finals Thursday evening, with Snigdha Nandipati, a 14-year-old California native, crowned the winner after effortlessly spelling “guetapens,” a French-derived term for “ambush.”

“I knew it, I’d seen it before,” Snigdha, still in a visible state of disbelief after her victory, said of the word that ultimately won her first place at the contest in Maryland — and nearly $40,000 (¥3.1 million) in combined prize money.

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