OXON HILL, Maryland (AP) — Two spellers were declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee — the first time in 52 years.
Indian-Americans Sriram Hathwar of New York and Ansun Sujoe of Texas shared the title Thursday after a riveting final-round duel in which they nearly exhausted the 25 designated championship words. After they spelled a dozen words correctly in a row, they both were named champions.
Their victories make it seven years in a row and 12 out of 16 that a speller of Indian descent has taken home the trophy. The run began in 1999 with Nupur Lala, who was featured in the documentary "Spellbound."
Sriram, 14, opened the door to an upset by 13-year-old Ansun after he misspelled "corpsbruder," a close comrade. But Ansun was unable to take the title because he got "antigropelos," which means waterproof leggings, wrong.
Sriram entered the final round as the favorite after finishing in third place last year. Ansun just missed the semifinals last year.
They become the fourth co-champions in the bee's 89-year history and the first since 1962.
"The competition was against the dictionary, not against each other," Sriram said after both were showered with confetti onstage. "I'm happy to share this trophy with him."
Sriram backed up his status as the favorite by rarely looking flustered on stage, nodding confidently as he outlasted 10 other spellers to set up the one-on-one duel with Ansun. The younger boy was more nervous and demonstrative, no more so than on the word that gave him a share of the title: "feuilleton," the features section of a European newspaper or magazine.
"Ah, whatever!" Ansun said before beginning to spell the word as the stage lights turned red, signaling that he had 30 seconds left.
Although they hoisted a single trophy together onstage, each will get one to take home, and each gets the champion's haul of more than $33,000 in cash and prizes.
Gokul Venkatachalam of Missouri finished third and Ashwin Veeramani of Ohio was fourth.
Associated Press Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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