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, didn't expect that. It's a word both of them studied 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.
So, they studied together -- the older brother helping the younger brother.
"It's nice for both of us to have been up there, even if we weren't first and second," Karl said.
When he spelled that final word correctly, Karl had mixed feelings. His little brother had worked right alongside him for weeks to prepare.
"I don't think when you're up on the stage you can really consider what you're feeling -- it's just a feeling," he said about his win. "It was kind of excitement, and a little bit of disappointment that Neil didn't get to win."
The brothers' mother, Natasha Patram, beamed with joy. Even with all the studying, she still wasn't sure that both of them would get this far.
"That was amazing to watch them," she said. "Even I was like, 'OK. It's not coming down to the two of them.' And, then, it came down to the two of them."
Now, the brothers have more prepping to do. They -- 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 at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2013, at North Gwinnett High School, in Suwanee.
Below, see Gwinnett County's top 12 spellers, in order of numbers given by the bee officials. The top three students are in bold.
1. Neil Patram, a fifth grader at Brookwood Elementary, finished second overall
2. Duabo Feghabo, a seventh grader at Summerour Middle
3. Keshav Kalathoor, an eighth grader at Hull Middle
4. Camden Jones, a student at Creekland Middle
5. Rucker Robinson, a fifth grader at Level Creek Elementary
6. Anaiyah Edwards, an eighth grader at Grace Snell Middle
7. Rohan Ramdeholl, a seventh grader at North Gwinnett Middle
8. Trung Bui, an eighth grader at Lilburn Middle School
9. Annabelle Armah, an eighth grader at Twin Rivers Middle, finished third overall
10. Samantha Sanchez, an eighth grader at Moore Middle
11. Karl Patram, an eighth grader at Crews Middle, finished first overall
12: Nimre Khan, a student at Shiloh Middle