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Spelling Bee Ends with Historic Eight-Way Tie

2019-5-31

Eight young “super-spellers” beat the dictionary to share victory at the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The final part of the historic bee began on Thursday night with sixteen spellers remaining. After almost four hours and 17 rounds of spelling, eight competitors still remained. In most years, a single competitor wins much earlier in the night.

There were so many strong spellers still remaining that bee officials began worrying that they did not have enough difficult words left to ask them.

So, at the end of round 17, longtime bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly announced, “Champion spellers, we are now in uncharted territory….We do have plenty of words remaining on our list. But we will soon run out of words that will possibly challenge you, the most phenomenal collection of super-spellers in the history of this competition.”

Bailly then explained that all spellers still standing after the 20th round would be named co-champions.

By the end of round 20, all eight still remained. The happy group created their own word for their joint success: “octochamps.”

Each will receive a $50,000 prize.The competition started on Tuesday with 562 spellers from across the nation, U.S. territories and six other countries: the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

The eight co-champions of the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee celebrate their win in Oxon Hill, Md., Friday, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The eight co-champions of the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee celebrate their win in Oxon Hill, Md., Friday, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Officials say that while there have been co-winners in the past, there has never been as many as eight.

The crowd reacted wildly as each competitor stepped forward and successfully spelled their word in the final round.

The winners are six boys and two girls, all between the ages of 12 and 14.

Rishik Gandhasri is 13 years old and from California. His final word, Auslaut, a German-based word that means the “final sound in a word or syllable.” He held his hands up and smiled after spelling it correctly. He was the first speller to become a champion.

Next was Erin Howard, who is 14 and from Alabama. She did not hide the fact that she knew exactly how to spell her very last word, “erysipelas.” She put her hands to her mouth, took a deep breath, and then easily spelled the Greek-based word. She started to cry as her family cheered her on.

Thirteen-year-old Saketh Sundar, from Maryland, stayed calm as he correctly spelled “bougainvillea” to become the third winner of the night.

As the crowd cheered and shouted, the final spellers stayed serious. Thirteen-year-old Shruthika Padhy of New Jersey asked Bailly to pronounce her final word “aiguillette” several times before being confirmed winner number four.

Texan Sohum Sukhatankar, also 13, pumped one hand in the air after easily spelling “pendeloque.”

Winner number six was 12-year-old Abhijay Kodali, the youngest of the octochamps. He spelled “palama” correctly before returning to his seat and nearly collapsing from happiness. He became Texas’ second champion of the night.

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Seventh was 13-year-old Christopher Serrao of New Jersey, with the word “cernuous.”

The eighth and final speller of the extremely long night was Rohan Raja. The 13-year-old -- also from Texas -- moved his body from side to side as he waited for Bailly to announce his word: odylic.

“Odylic,” Raja repeated. “Okay.” The crowd reacted to his quiet trust and belief in himself.

Not surprisingly, Raha became the eighth and final winner of the historic night. The seven other champions gave him high fives and hugs.

On Friday morning, the octochamps appeared together on the American morning news program “The Today Show.”

A reporter asked the group if anyone would have wanted to continue the competition in order to have one clear winner.

Christopher Serrao answered for the group: “I think we were all sleepy, and also, we all wanted to win together,” he said.

“We were competing together and we were really happy when one person spelled their word correctly.”

I'm Ashley Thompson.

And I'm Caty Weaver.

That's C-A-T-Y W-E-A-V-E-R.

That is correct!

Ashley Thompson wrote this story based on reports from Reuters and the Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dictionary - n. reference book that contains words listed in alphabetical order and that gives information about the words' meanings, forms, pronunciations, etc.

champion - n. someone or something (such as a team or an animal) that has won a contest or competition especially in sports

uncharted - adj. not recorded or located on a map, chart, or plan

phenomenal - adj. very good or great : unusual in a way that is very impressive

challenge - v. to test the ability, skill, or strength of (someone or something) :to be difficult enough to be interesting to (someone)

hug - n. the act of putting your arms around someone or something as a way of showing love or friendship