Not one, two, but eight dictionary experts claimed the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee championship title Thursday, after surviving 20 total rounds on a historic night.
The voice of the Scripps Bee, Jacques Bailly, announced three hours into the final competition that everyone who nailed their 12th word of the night would share the honor, marking the first time more than two contestants won.
The winners were: Rishik Gandhasri, 13; Erin Howard, 14; Saketh Sundar, 13; Shruthika Padhy, 13; Sohum Sukhatankar, 13; Abhijay Kodali, 12; Christopher Serrao, 13; and Rohan Raja, 13.
Many brought veteran experience, as more than half of the 16 finalists competed in prime time in Maryland’s Gaylord National Harbor Convention Center last year. Bailey said Scripps ran out of words to challenge them.
The competitors will each receive $50,000 in cash, a Scripps trophy, reference books and trips to New York and Hollywood to appear on talk shows. Scripps named two winners as recently as 2016, but the competition hasn’t recognized more than a two-way tie since it began in 1925.
The finalists, ages 12 to 14, beat out more than 546 other competitors. A couple qualified through the return of an invitational program started in 2018, the RSVBee, which gave spellers a chance if they won their school bee or previously competed on the national stage.
The championship hopefuls started strong, as first round words from “Stakhanovite” to “marmennill” didn’t stump a single speller. Example sentences referencing “Avengers” to Mindy Kaling helped the dictionary experts put the challenges in context.
Aisha Randhawa, 13, of Corona, Calif., who finished seventh last year, bowed out after misspelling “cuirassier.” A confident 14 spellers remained after the second prime time round, but after the seventh only eight kept their seats on stage.
Other spellers heard the elimination bell after “ischiocerite,” “Rassenkreis,” and “tettigoniid” among other terms.
Dr. Bailly just announced we’re in uncharted territory. We won’t run out of words but may run out of words to challenge our most storied spellers in Bee history. At Rd 20, 3 away, all remaining spellers will be named Co-Champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. #spellingbee — Scripps National Spelling Bee (@ScrippsBee) May 31, 2019
Three hours in, Bailly announced the competition would only last another three rounds. After, everyone remaining would win because Scripps would run out of challenging words.
The eight co-champions won their titles by correctly spelling auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous and odylic.
They ended the night spelling the final 47 words correctly, acing five consecutive perfect rounds. They hail from the states of Alabama, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.
The onstage spelling rounds began Tuesday after preliminary multiple choice tests on Monday. Pressure from the limelight and obscure terminology whittled down the 562 contestants, ages 7 to 15, before the final.
It took 5½ hours to narrow the field from 50 spellers to 16, Bee executive director Paige Kimble said, prompting organizers to come up with the plan to name co-champions.
The eight winners are scheduled to appear on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in the coming months.