Moncks Corner -- If it hadn't ended when it did -- after two hours of competition -- the Berkeley County School District spelling bee was in danger of running out of words Thursday.

"We had 350 words total and we were on number 312," said former school board Chairwoman Kathleen Bounds, pronouncer for the event. "I thought we might run out of words. ... Tonight was a marathon."

In the end, Daniel Island School seventh-grader Avery Carhart came away with the victory at Berkeley High School by correctly spelling "aardwolf," which second-place finisher Haven Xu of College Park Middle School had spelled wrong, and adding "Neapolitan."

Avery, 13, was one of the most expressive contestants in the bee, which started with 37 spellers representing a dozen middle schools in the county. She often crossed herself or pumped her fist after spelling words correctly.

Avery said she didn't study for the spelling bee but attributed her success instead to a love of reading.

"I've been reading since I was 3," she said. "I read everything."

Her mother, Krysta Carhart, said she was most pleased of the sportsmanship Avery displayed on the stage.

"I was proud of how supportive she was of the other contestants," she said. "She was clapping for them and congratulating them, and that made me proud."

Avery and 11 other top finishers will advance to Spellbound!, the Lowcountry's regional spelling bee, which is sponsored by The Post and Courier and Heritage Trust.

They are (in order of finish): Avery; Haven; Ethan Smith, Macedonia Middle; Hayley Durant, Westview Middle; Malik Brown, St. Stephen Middle; Nicholle Lewis, Sedgefield Middle; Charlize Melendez, Sedgefield Middle; Ian Bongalonta, Westview Middle; Charles Ritter, College Park Middle; Drew Peavy, Hanahan Middle; Breanna Lundblad, Marrington Middle; and Tawandre Joseph, who was representing Berkeley Alternative but now goes to Berkeley Middle.