Jersey Girl Wins National Spelling Bee

June 2, 2006— -- The fifth time was the charm for Jersey girl Katharine Close, the winner of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Close, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from H.W. Mountz School in Spring Lake, N.J., won the competition in her fifth straight appearance in the finals on Thursday night.

In the first primetime network broadcast of the competition, she didn't display the dramatic flair that had marked the spelling bee and captivated the nation.

There was no swooning, no screaming, not even writing of imaginary words on her arm. She approached each round quietly confident, with her hands in her pockets. When she heard her final word, she knew she had the contest locked.

"I knew I'd studied it, so I was really relieved when I got it," Close said on "Good Morning America."

"I put it on one of my lists and I just randomly found it, and I'd reviewed it with my parents so I knew it."

Close correctly spelled "ursprache," which means language, to become the first girl since 1999 -- and the first contestant from New Jersey -- to win in the history of the contest. Last year, she tied for seventh place with Saryn Hooks of Taylorsville, N.C.

An Elimination, Then a Reinstatement

Hooks, 14, was the center of the most dramatic moment in Thursday night's competition.

After being eliminated while spelling "icteritious," an adjective describing a jaundiced color, she was reinstated after the judges realized that they had made a mistake and that she had spelled the word correctly.

The reinstatement came as a shock to Hooks.

"I had kind of numbed myself at that point because I didn't want to cry on stage," she said. "I didn't know the word, and I guessed on it so I just thought I was wrong."

Although rattled, Hooks refocused and hung on to come in third place. Her final exit left just Close and Finola Mei Hawa, a 14-year-old from Alberta, Canada, to battle it out for seven rounds.

Hawa finally stumbled on the word "weltschmerz," leaving the door open for Close.

Close will take $42,000 in cash and prizes back to her home, where she will be a freshman at High Tech High School in the fall.

She has a few years to go, but she already knows what she plans to use her scholarship money to study.

"I want to be a journalist," she said. "I would like to write for newspapers."

She will be one journalist who does not require spell check.