‘Uncharted territory’: National Spelling Bee ends in historic eight-way tie

first_img Crowd favorite Colette Giezentanner competes in Thursday’s championship finals. She was eliminated in the 12th round on ‘Chama’. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters Pinterest Share on LinkedIn The championship finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which unfolded on Thursday evening before a national television audience, ended in an eight-way tie early Friday morning after Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rojan Raja combined to spell the final 47 words correctly over five consecutive perfect rounds, an exhibition of orthographic precision unlike any witnessed before in the 94-year history of the competition.The dreaded sound of the bell denoting crowd-pleasing seventh-grader Simone Kaplan’s elimination on tettigoniid early in the 15th round, one of only eight missed words out of 129 on the night, turned out to be the final misstep of the proceedings. One after another the “octo-champs”, as they called themselves in the dizzying aftermath, fielded every esoteric offering fired their way, including curveballs like sphaeriid, omphalopsychite, vraic, huanglongbing and auftaktigkeit, over more than three and a half tense hours. Share on Facebook The unprecedented outcome was made possible after a shock announcement by official pronouncer Jacques Bailly at the conclusion of the 17th round – the second in a row with no eliminations – where he acknowledged that organizers were fast running out of challenging words and that any speller still alive after three additional rounds would be declared a champion.“Champion spellers, we are now in uncharted territory,” Bailly said. “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 added: “We’re basically throwing the dictionary at you, and so far you are showing the dictionary who is boss.”Officials had discussed the possible contingency plan earlier on Thursday after an extended five-and-a-half-hour morning session was required to winnow the field from 50 spellers to the 16 who competed in primetime on ESPN – but the rule change was a surprise to the final eight and the audience at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Facebook Since you’re here… Scripps National Spelling Bee 2019: championship finals – as it happened Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest Reuse this content … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Twitter Read more Share on Twitter Share on WhatsApp Topics The sensational twist, which prompted a standing ovation from the gallery, opened the door for as many as eight champions and the remaining contenders, knowing they needed only spell three more words correctly to ensure a piece of the prestigious title, gleefully smashed it in, trading high-fives and hugs after each successive correct attempt.After breezing through the 18th and 19th rounds without so much as a scare, each spelled their title-clinching word without any apparent nerves: Gandhasri with auslaut, Howard with erysipelas, Sundar with bougainvillea, Padhy with aiguillette, Sukhatankar with pendeloque, Kodali with palama, Serrao with cernuous, then finally Raja with odylic to complete the historic sweep at 12.06am local time, more than an hour and a half past the scheduled finish.Co-champions have been declared in six previous National Spelling Bees – 1950, 1957, 1962, 2014, 2015 and 2016 – but never before had more than two competitors shared the title in a single year. Crucially, each will receive the full winner’s purse of $50,000 rather than a divided share.The quality at the top of spelling has been generally attributed to the proliferation of private tutors and wider availability of online study guides, part of a cottage industry of modern bee preparation often driven by former contestants. But Sukhatankar, a 13-year-old seventh-grader from St Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, chalked this year’s extraordinary result up to old-fashioned competitive evolution.“Spellers improve,” Sukhatankar said. “It’s natural and the rate at which people are improving is amazing.”More than 11 million students participated in this year’s National Spelling Bee, ranging in age from seven to 15 and hailing from all 50 US states, overseas territories and six other countries: the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea. The competition has been held annually since 1925, except for a three-year hiatus during the second world war. US sports National Spelling Bee It was the night the bee was broken and the dictionary humbled. Share via Email Share on Messenger ESPN (@espn)EIGHT co-champions!The Scripps #SpellingBee ends in an unprecedented 8-way tie after 20 rounds of words 🏆 pic.twitter.com/7QHj2ixyjhMay 31, 2019last_img

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