Oxon Hill, Md. — The Scripps National Spelling Bee was brought to its knees Thursday night into early Friday by eight spellers who were too poised, too prepared and too savvy for any word thrown their way. Faced with a dwindling word list and a group of spellers who showed no weakness, Scripps gave up and declared them co-champions, the most extraordinary ending in the 92-year history of the competition.
The eight co-champions spelled the final 47 words correctly in their historic walk-off victory, going through five consecutive perfect rounds. The competition had 20 rounds in all.
“Champion spellers, we are now in uncharted territory,” bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly told them in announcing the decision to allow up to eight winners. “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.”
He wasn’t lying. The bee held three more rounds after that, and no one missed a word or even appeared to struggle.
Earlier, he said, “We’re throwing the dictionary at you, and, so far, you are showing the dictionary who’s boss,” the Reuters news agency noted.
The winners, six boys and two girls from Alabama, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, ranged in age from 12 to 14 and dubbed themselves “octo-champs.”
Although the bee had decided to split the first- and second-place money in the event of a tie, those plans were quickly scuttled and each speller was given the full $50,000 cash prize. The three-day event began with 562 contestants from the U.S., U.S. territories and six other nations, the Reuters said.