Jacque Silveira, also of Coarsegold, also watched in amazement. "I hope she wins. The community would be on the map," said Silveira.
Thomas made it through five rounds with ease spelling words many can't define, such as brankursine, propylaeum, rhyton, and oxylophytic. But it was the word "opificer" that led to the ding no contestant wants to hear. Thomas finished in third place. She was the final girl standing. "It feels cool. I'm disappointed, but it's awesome," said Thomas.
It was Thomas' best finish ever, in her final year of competition. She'd been to the national spelling bee four times before and believed this was her year to win. With the studying behind her now she said she's not sure what will come next. "I don't know. I'm going to take a very long break," said Thomas.
Back in Coarsegold, the people at Alphonso's said Tia and all the contestants accomplished a major feat, spelling words they've never even heard of. "I don't think of those words at all, much less what they mean, or how to spell them. Good for them!" said Debbie Torres, the owner of Alphonso's.
Tia won't leave Washington, D.C empty handed. The prize for third place is $7,500 dollars.