But he was still good enough to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Aritra Banerjee of Rocky Hill spelled "asytrocyte" and Arin Bhandari of West Haven spelled "congratulatory" to advance.
A record-shattering 516 spellers qualified - compared to 291 the year before.
How would you do in the competition?
Karthik Nemmani (bottom right) didn't win his regional or county spelling bee.
The 515 entrants in this year's three-day competition included 23 Ohioans.
The championship was won at 10:41 p.m.by Karthik Nemmani, 14, an eighth grader from McKinney, Texas, who correctly spelled the word "koinonia", which Merriam-Webster defines as an "intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community".
Thirteen-year-old Mattie Cull represented Newfoundland and Labrador in Washington, D.C., this week at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and made it to Round 3 before being eliminated prior to the finals.
Scripps' Spelling Bee additionally offers an interactive way to seemingly view the competition outside of ESPN.
Nemmani also continued a long-time trend by becoming the 14th champion or co-champion of South Asian descent the bee has had in 11 consecutive years.
"I would probably run myself into the ground doing this, because I just love doing it", he said.
The finals got off to a rocky start when Enya Hubers, 12, from Ontario, Canada misspelled "kanone".
Last week Indian-origin Venkat Ranjan, won the National Geographic Bee, which carries a $50,000 scholarship, beating out two others.
"I'm going to put in more time studying for next year, and I know I have to study more out-of-the-box words", he said.
"She was just as graceful as she could be", bee program manager Corrie Loeffler said.
Her close friend, Jashun Paluru of West Lafayette, Indiana, finished fourth, spelling with flair and spending most of his time in between words chatting animatedly with Naysa. "I wanted to watch", he said with a laugh.