WASHINGTON, May 31 -- Tiny Wendy Guey stepped up to the microphone and belted out the letters that make up a big word -- V-I-V-I- S-E-P-U-L-T-U-R-E -- to walk away the winner of the 69th annual National Spelling Bee. Wendy, a seventh-grader from West Palm Beach, Fla., was a crowd favorite in the Spelling Bee's last round Thursday because of her diminutive size.
But she was big enough to tackle words like 'lisle' and 'vivisepulture,' which means to bury one alive. The 12-year-old, whose parents came to America from Taiwan 10 years ago, took home a $5,000 cash award, a loving cup and thousands of dollars in computer, camera and reference materials. She said she made the loot the hard way -- she earned it. 'I studied a lot. I really wanted to win, and I prayed a lot. I was just really lucky that I got a lot of words that I knew,' she said. The second prize winner was Nikki Dowdy, 13, of Friendswood, Texas, who won $4,000 for her way with words. Hearing-impaired Jimmy McCarthy, 11, who was accompanied to the bee by a signer, was eliminated in the fourth round Thursday. The audience gave him a long standing ovation. Jimmy, a sixth-grader from Land O'Lakes, Fla., has only about half of his hearing capacity. 'He had trouble hearing all the letters,' his mother, Sally McCarthy said. Jimmy was eliminated on the word 'ululant.' He spelled it 'undulant.' 'We're so proud of him to get this far,' his mother said. 'He wants to try again next year.' The National Spelling Bee was sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation in conjunction with hometown newspapers across the country. The competition is open to youngsters in grades four through eight.