History Made as Spelling Bee Ends in 8-Way Tie

Some fans of the teen movie, Akeelah and the Bee, were a little disappointed she had to share the prize with a rival in the end.

Well, that is nothing compared to something far more real that just happened at the popular spelling competition.

In a night the bee was broken and the dictionary humbled, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a eight-way tie early Friday morning!

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 accuracy unlike any witnessed before in the 94-year history of the competition.

The unprecedented outcome was made possible after a surprise announcement by official pronouncer Jacques Bailly at the conclusion of the 17th round – the second in a row with no eliminations – where it was acknowledged that organizers had run out of challenging words and any speller still alive after three more rounds would be declared co-champions.

“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.”

Organizers had discussed the possible contingency plan earlier on Thursday after a five-and-a-half-hour morning session was required to winnow the field from 50 spellers to the 16 who competed before a prime-time national television audience – but the rule change took the final eight and the gallery at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center by surprise.

After breezing through the 18th and 19th rounds, 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.

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.

Each will receive the full winner’s prize of $50,000 in cash.

More than 11m students participated in this year’s competition, 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.

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