Around 562 spelling whizzes from all over the U.S and U.S sub-nations – as well as six other countries – attended the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Maryland on the 26th of May. The final competitors between the ages of 12 and 14 battled through 20 intense rounds of the event before the organizers finally ended it with an eight-way tie. After a grueling three days of spelling their hearts out, event coordinators were running out of words that posed enough of a challenge for the brainy youth. Six of the overjoyed winners were Indian-Americans. This now marks 12 consecutive years where a person of Indian ancestry has reached first place in the Scripps Spelling Bee.
Although it’s not the only case where there was a tie for first place, history has been made as officials state that it’s the first time in the 94 years of Scripps’ existence where there have been eight champions. Although the spelling bee began in 1925, this was only the 92nd competition as it was put on hold for World War II between 1943 and 1945. Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Abhijay Kodali, Shruthika Padhy, Rohan Raja, Christopher Serrao, Sohum Sukhatankar, and Saketh Sundar were the 8-way split winners who were still holding strong in round 18 of the competition when the spelling bee’s pronouncer, Jacques Bailly, told the competitors, “We’re throwing the dictionary at you, and so far, you are showing the dictionary who’s boss!”
A $50,000 award and a $2,500 savings bond will be given to each of the champions. Along with a plethora of many other words that were encountered in the competition, there was auftaktigkeit – a term in music meaning all phrases start on an upbeat, omphalopsychite – someone who stares at their belly button to experience a mystical trance, geeldikkop – the poisonous Tribulus terrestris plant often affecting goats and sheep, and erysipelas – a bacterial skin infection causing a red, swollen, and shiny rash.