Will Lourcey grimaced and repeated the word.
Slowly, the 14-year-old spelled the word — defined as an espresso with a dash of frothy steamed milk — in the championship round of the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee at Texas Christian University.
Lourcey grabbed the top prize Thursday after 23 grueling rounds, winning a $200 check and a spot at the Scripps National Bee in Washington, D.C., this spring.
“The competition was tough. I never thought I would make it this far,” said Lourcey, who is an eighth-grade student at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth. “It’s a very indescribable feeling.”
Hosted by TCU’s College of Education, the bee started with 24 students sitting side by side on stage, as nervous parents, siblings and teachers filled the room.
Some spellers wrote imaginary letters on their hands, speaking slowly and enunciating. Others zipped quickly through words.
Progressively, the words grew more difficult. “Balcony” and “icicle” turned into “kohlrabi” and “diphthong,” which turned into “beetewk” and “uitlander.”
The bee was not entirely without drama. As Round 12 began, the moderator and judges noticed that their words provided by Scripps did not match, and officials scrambled for a half-hour to resolve the issue.
Upon resuming, bee coordinator Karrabi Malin said, “Stay calm and spell on.”
Runner-up Marina Sorola, an eighth-grader at North Ridge Middle School, eventually stumbled on the word “lassi,” a yogurt drink popular in India.
Sorola, who won $100, said spelling bees suit her love of language. “I love learning new words and I like to write,” she said, holding her trophy.
Lourcey said he planned to celebrate his win by competing in a tennis tournament and maybe buying a new video game.
His father, Bill Lourcey, said his son has always excelled with language.
“It’s nerve-wracking to watch him up there,” he said. “I can’t spell a thing, so I never know if he’s right or wrong.”