The Scripps National Spelling Bee made history Thursday night, May 29 -- or rather the last two spellers standing in the 2014 spelling competition did. According to Scripps, Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, N.Y. and Ansun Sujoe of Forth Worth, Texas became co-champions, the first duo winners in the bee's history since 1962.
It was five-time veteran Sriram Hathwar's game to lose this year. Not only was he the most experienced speller in the national competition, but it was also his last chance to take home the winning trophy. As a 14-year-old eighth grader, he was competing in his last year of eligibility.
According to Scripps, Hathwar had competed in 2008, 2009, again in 2011 when he came in sixth, and 2013 when he finished just two spots short of the title. He was favored, but no win, even with experience, is a lock at the National Spelling Bee. It's all about the words.
As Hathwar later said about his co-win in a post-bee interview, "I think we both know that the competition was against the dictionary, not against each other." Hathwar attends the Alternative School for Math and Science in Corning, N.Y.
By comparison, Ansun Sujoe, a 13-year-old seventh grader, had a very good go of it for a second try at the bee, having first gone to D.C. only just last year. He attends Bethesda Christian School in Forth Worth.
Twelve spellers made it to the final round that was televised live on ESPN. In addition to Hathwar and Sujoe, the other finalists were: Gokul Venkatachalam, who finished in third place; Ashwin Veeramani, finishing fourth; Mary Horton and Alia Abiad tying for fifth place; Jacob Williamson, seventh; Neha Konakalla, Tajaun Gibbison, Kate Miller, and Tejas Muthusamy tying for eight place; and Samuel Pereles coming in twelfth.
The final words? Well, organizers were running out of them and the contest got down to just three rounds left. When two spellers remain and they both spell a round correctly with so few of the 25 championship words remaining, the rules say there is a chance for a tie. But that doesn't happen very often.
In the 22nd round of the finals, Hathwar spelled "stichomythia" correctly but needed to wait and see what would happen when Sujoe completed the round. Nervous, and having just been told that a correct spelling of this next word would give him the co-win, Sujoe stumbled in pronouncing "feuillton." However, he then went on to spell it right, ensuring both boys the 2014 victory.
Each year thousands of students compete in local and regional spelling bees around the country, and even some international locations, for the chance at going to Washington, D.C. and competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The bee has been held every year since 1925.
The tied first place winners this year were the first such pair in 52 years. Hathwar was sponsored by the Corning Rotary Club; Sujoe by Texas Christian University.