It was a rare moment at the Scripps National Spelling Bee—one that hadn’t happened since 1962. Two spellers remained standing at the end of the bee. Ansun Sujoe, 13, from Forth Worth, Texas, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, from Painted Post, New York, were declared co-champions. Each will win the grand prize, which includes a trophy and a $30,000 cash prize.
The tie was a fitting ending for the two winning spellers. As the confetti rained down on the stage, sharing the spotlight didn’t seem to bother either champ. "I think we both know that the competition is against the dictionary and not against each other," Sriram told ESPN, which aired the bee live on May 29. "I'm happy to share this trophy with him."
Ansun, a rookie to the finals, agreed. “I was pretty happy when I made the finals, and now I’m even happier that I’m a co-champion,” he said.
Spelling to the End
It takes some tough spelling to tie at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which took place over three days in National Harbor, Maryland. The national bee is open to students who have not graduated beyond eighth grade and are under 16 years old. Competitors qualify by winning a community spelling bee competition presented by a local sponsor.
This year’s competition began Tuesday, May 27, with 281 spellers. By Thursday night, 12 spellers remained for the finals.
According to the rules of the Bee, when two or three spellers remain, the judges move to a final list of 25 difficult words. This year, the list included obscure words like “thymelici,” “skandhas,” and “sdrucciola.”
The Bee almost had a different ending. In round 16, with the two spellers remaining, Sriram—who placed third last year and was a favorite to win in his fifth year at the Bee—misspelled his word. But then Ansun misspelled his word too, so both boys were back in the competition.
The spellers went on for six more rounds, until there weren’t enough words left to declare one champion. Sriram’s final word was “stichomythia,” a theatrical word for dialogue delivered in alternating lines. Ansun’s final word was “feuilleton,” a feature section of a European newspaper or magazine.
Both Sriram and Ansun are of Indian descent. That makes this the seventh year in a row that an Indian-American speller has won the bee. Sriram, who likes to swim and play basketball, wants to be an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor. Ansun, a talented musician, wants to be an engineer.
The boys received praise from President Barack Obama via a message posted on the White House Twitter account: “Congrats to Ansun and Sriram, the incredible co-champs of the #ScrippsNationalSpellingBee. You make us all proud! –bo [Barack Obama].”