OXON HILL, Md. — It's what makes the spelling bee such gripping drama. Five competitors were left, and it appeared none of them would ever miss again.

They correctly rolled off 21 words in a row. Hard ones, like "abhinaya" and "capoeira" and "cheongsam" and "opodeldoc." One of the spellers kept checking another one's watch. It was past bedtime, and long past the time slot that had been allotted by ESPN.

But it turned out that not all five had memorized the entire dictionary. Eventually, four heard the telltale bell of elimination, leaving 14-year-old eighth grader Sukanya Roy of South Abington Township, Pa., to take home the trophy and the more than $40,000 in cash and prizes Thursday at the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland.