Eight 12-to-14-year-olds made history very early this morning when they were all declared co-champions in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In its 92-year history, the Bee has had six two-way ties, but it's never been so solidly beaten by a group of eight brilliant adolescents.

At the 17th round on the championship night of the Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, last night when there were still eight finalists and the hour was getting very late, Scripps officials basically gave up on the idea of crowning a single winner. They announced they would hold just three more rounds of play. Anyone who spelled all three of their words right would share the championship, and would receive $50,000 prize money Jacques Bailly, the event's pronouncer told the audience and the contestants. "We'll soon run out of words that will challenge you," he explained. "We're throwing the dictionary at you. And so far, you are showing this dictionary who is boss."

Rather than be displeased at losing the chance to be the one-and-only champion, all eight kids rooted for each other, all hoping the entire group would wind up with the prize. Three of them knew each other from Dallas, which for some reason produces more champion spellers than the rest of the country. But, friends or not, they all knew how much time--25 hours a week or more--championship spellers put in studying words for competition. "As a speller, you know how hard everyone else has worked and you know how much they deserve to win," Sohum Sukhatankar, a 13-year-old co-champion from Dallas told the New York Times

Through the last rounds, they acted as a team, cheering one another as each spelled their word correctly and high-fiving each other after every correct word. "All of us were supporting each other," Christopher Serrao, a 13-year-old co-champion from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey told Scripps officials. 

It was just after midnight when Rohan Raja, a 13-year-old from Irving, Texas correctly spelled odylic, the last word of the Bee. Confetti fell from the ceiling, the competitors hugged each other, and Bailly brought out the Scripps Cup, a large pottery trophy designed especially for the event. All eight competitors held it up together.

The next morning, a newscaster asked the group if any of them would have preferred to play on until a single winner was chosen. None of them raised their hands.

Here are their eight winning words. See how many of them you recognize. (I only knew bougainvillea.)

Auslaut - Final sound in a word or syllable

Erysipelas - An acute infection, usually with a rash

Bougainvillea - Ornamental tropical American woody vine or shrub with large red or purple flowers

Aiguillette - Shoulder cord worn by military aides

Pendeloque - A pear-shaped glass pendant ornamenting a lamp or chandelier

Palama - The webbing on the feet of a duck or other aquatic bird

Cernuous - Used to describe an inclining or nodding plant

Odylic - Related to odyl, a natural force or power some believe accounts for the magnetism or charisma of certain people

Published on: May 31, 2019
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