When the spelling bee closed with a tender hug between the winner and the second-place finisher, it became clear that they were more than competitors.
It came down to the word: extraneous.
Neil, a fifth grader at Brookwood Elementary School, stepped to the microphone to spell the word before his older brother, Karl.
Silence in the room, and without asking for any extra explanations of the word, Neil spelled: E. X. T. R. A. N. I. O. U. S.
Karl, an eighth grader at Crews Middle School in Lawrenceville, didn't expect that. It's word that both of them knew before the nerve-racking day came, he later said.
Now, it was his turn to spell the word. Without any hesitation, he spelled it correctly. His next word -- the one that would crown him winner -- was marionette.
Applause erupted in the auditorium of Central Gwinnett High School, where the bee was held Saturday, Feb. 2. But, Karl, he didn't jump for joy.
Instead, he took his win modestly, walked back to where his brother sat, and embraced him. That brought even more applause.
Neil, despite his loss, was all smiles. He credits his brother for the win.
"I think it's all because Karl helped me study," he said. "I wouldn't have known words like fibrillation without him."
His brother, Karl, said they had hoped it would come down to the two of them. But, out of 88 spellers the chances were slim.
"It's nice for both of us to have been up there, even if we weren't first and second," Karl said.
Now, the brothers -- along with the other top 12 spellers -- will represent their school and school system in the District 3 Bee, which includes winners of surrounding counties.
That bee takes place 10 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2013, at North Gwinnett High School, in Suwanee.