ESPN covered it. So did CNN and a plethora of other media outlets. And viewers of the week-long 92nd Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee’s “Bee Week” were on the edge of their seats during last night’s finals when not one, but eight winners claimed victory.
This is the first time in the National Spelling Bee’s history the title has been shared. The week kicked off at Maryland’s Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor with 562 contestants facing 20 rounds; this number winnowed down from the 11 million who competed in classrooms around the country leading up to the national championship.
More Than a Title at Stake
Thursday’s five round final leading up to the decision was a nail-biter, concluding with the eight co-champions each being awarded $50,000, a Scripps Cup trophy, a $2,500 cash prize and reference library from Merriam-Webster and reference works plus a three-year online membership from Encyclopaedia Britanica.
“These spellers have conquered the dictionary unequivocally with their ability, skill and command of the English language,” Paige Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, said in a statement. “It’s an incredible achievement, and we salute all the years of hard work and dedicated study that brought these intelligent young people to the world stage. We congratulate them all.”
The Great Eight
Yes, the winners may be young, but they’ve spent years aiming for this crowning achievement. The list, including their journeys to last night’s victory:
•Erin Howard, 14, from Huntsville, Alabama. She is an eighth-grader at Mountain Gap P-8 School. Howard competed in 2016 (tied for 22nd place), 2017 (tied for 7th place) and 2018 (9th place). Her winning word: erysipelas
•Rishik Gandhasri (Ri-shik Gun-duh-sree), 13, from San Jose, California. He is a seventh-grader at Chaboya Middle School. Gandhasri competed in 2018 (tied for 25th place). His winning word: auslaut.
•Abhijay Kodali (Uh-bee-jay Kuh-DAH-lee), 12, from Flower Mound, Texas. He is a sixth-grader from McKamy Middle School. Kodali competed in 2018 (tied for 3rd place). His winning word: palama.
•Shruthika Padhy (shroo-THEE-kuh PA-dee), 13, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She is an eighth-grader at Rosa International Middle School. Padhy competed in 2016 (tied for 22nd place), 2017 (tied for 7th place) and 2018 (tied for 10th place). Her winning word: aiguillette.
•Rohan Raja, 13, from Dallas, Texas. He is a seventh-grader at Coppell Middle School West. Raja competed in 2018 (tied for 10th place). His winning word: odylic.
•Saketh Sundar (SAH-keth sun-DAHR), 13, from Clarksville, Maryland. He is an eighth-grader from Clarksville Middle School. Sundar competed in 2016 (tied for 46th place), 2017 (tied for 12th place) and 2018 (tied for 19th place). His winning word: bougainvillea.
•Sohum Sukhatankar (SO-hum SOO-kuh-tuhng-kuhr), 13, from Dallas, Texas. He is a seventh-grader at St. Mark’s School of Texas. Sukhatankar competed in 2017 (tied for 23rd place) and 2018 (tied for 25th place). His winning word: pendeloque.
•Christopher Serrao (Suh-RAU), 13, from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. He is a seventh-grader at Readington Middle School. Serrao competed in 2017 (tied for 41st place) and 2018 (tied for 34th place). His winning word: cernuous.
As Jacques Bailly said when announcing the decision to allow for eight winners, “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.”