The 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winners Beat The Dictionary
The trophy awarded to the winner of the country's most well-known annual spelling bee was hoisted in the air in victory on Thursday by not one, not three, not even five pairs of hands — but eight. In a historic first, eight adolescent contestants won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after organizers ran out of words to challenge them with.
After eight contestants aced a whopping 17 rounds of spelling challenges, the Bee's official pronouncer, 1980 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champ Jacques Bailly, told them there'd be a slight change to the program. Instead of continuing to spell until the field narrows to one champion, the Bee would name any contestant who spelled three more words correctly a champion.
"We do have plenty of words remaining in our list, but we'll soon run out of words that will challenge you," The New York Times reported Bailly told the eight contestants. "We’re throwing the dictionary at you. And so far, you are showing this dictionary who is boss."
In the end, after out-spelling 557 other competitors over the span of three days, all eight contestants spelled their three words correctly and were named co-champions in a historic eight-way tie. Together, they hoisted their shared trophy overhead as Bailly declared them "the most phenomenal assemblage of spellers in the history of this storied competition," according to NPR.
Get to know each of this year's eight Scripps National Spelling Bee Champions:
Rishik Gandhasri: "Auslaut"
After successfully spelling the word "auslaut," 13-year-old Rishik Gandhasri from San Jose, California, was the first contestant to be declared a co-champion, according to NPR. The Silver Oak Elementary School seventh grader competed in the Bee last year as well, finishing in 25th place, The San Jose Mercury News reported.
Erin Howard: "Erysipelas"
Fourteen-year-old Erin Howard from Huntsville, Alabama, broke out into a dance when she was given the word "erysipelas," NPR reported. She then spelled it correctly to be named the night's second co-champion. The eighth grader from Mountain Gap School is the second adolescent from Alabama to ever be named a champion in Scripps' history, according to Alabama Local.
Saketh Sundar: "Bougainvillea"
Thirteen-year-old Saketh Sundar of Clarksville, Maryland, became the third champion of the night — and the first champion to ever hail from Maryland — when he correctly spelled the word "bougainvillea." This was the fourth consecutive year the Clarksville Middle School eighth grader had competed in the Bee, according to The Baltimore Sun. He tied for 19th place in 2018 and placed 12th in 2017 and 46th in 2016.
Shruthika Padhy: "Aiguillette"
In the four years she'd competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, 13-year-old Shruthika Padhy from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, became known to fans for wearing lucky sneakers into competition and spelling words on her hand, according to The Courier Post. The Rosa International Middle School student was the fourth contestant to be named a champion Thursday when she successfully spelled the word "aiguillette."
Sohum Sukhatankar: "Pendeloque"
After correctly spelling the word "pendeloque" to earn his place as the evening's fifth champion, 13-year-old Sohum Sukhatankar of Dallas, Texas, pumped one fist in the air in victory, NPR reported. The seventh grader from St. Mark's School competed in the Spelling Bee last year, placing 25th, according to Dallas News.
Abhijay Kodali: "Palama"
After spelling the word "palama" correctly and being named this year's sixth co-champion, 12-year-old Abhijay Kodali of Flower Mound, Texas, returned to his seat clutching his heart, according to NPR. The McKamy Middle School sixth grader came in third last year and told Dallas News he just wanted to get some sleep after his big win.
Christopher Serrao: "Cernuous"
Thirteen-year-old Christopher Serrao of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, quickly traced a few letters out on his arm before correctly spelling the word "cernuous," according to NPR. He became the seventh contestant of the night named co-champion. The Readington Middle School student told The Morning Call he studied about 20 hours a week in preparation for the competition.
Rohan Raja: "Odylic"
After correctly spelling the word "odylic," 13-year-old Rohan Raja of Irving, Texas, was welcomed into the winners' circle late Thursday night with high-fives from his seven co-champions. Earlier in the competition, the Coppell Middle School West student made the audience laugh when he worried his pronunciation of the word "Gaeltacht" sounded like he'd "vomited," Dallas News reported.
Scripps' annual spelling bee hasn't seen more than a two-way tie since it was first formed in 1925, according to USA Today. The champion typically wins trips to New York City and Hollywood, $50,000 in cash, and a trophy from Scripps, as well as a $2,500 cash prize, a reference library from Merriam-Webster and $400 of reference works, and a three-year Encyclopedia Britannica membership. With so many co-champions this year, though, Scripps will have to figure out how exactly to divvy up the prizes.