History was made Thursday at the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee when an unprecedented eight kids were declared co-champions at the end of a competition that went 20 rounds.
The winners are: Rohan Raja from Irving, Texas; Christopher Serrao from White House Station, New Jersey; Abhijay Kodali from Flower Mound, Texas; Sohum Sukhatankar from Dallas; Shruthika Padhy from Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Saketh Sundar from Clarksville, Maryland; Erin Howard from Huntsville, Alabama; and Rishik Gandhasri from San Jose, California.
All winners will receive a $50,000 college scholarship — and an extremely hard-to-top subject for their college admission essay.
Multiple winners have been declared only three times before, in 2014, 2015 and 2016. However, only two co-champions were named in those bees.
The annual competition doesn’t have a strict limit on the number of rounds — typically contestants are eliminated efficiently enough without restricting the length of competition. But after the eight eventual-winners made it through 17 grueling rounds, judges decided that the contest would end in the 20th round with every still-standing contestant sharing the victory.
“We’re basically throwing the dictionary at you,” Dr. Jacques Bailey, the event’s longtime official pronouncer, said after the 17th round. “And so far you’re showing the dictionary who’s boss.”
Dictionary loses to 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee Co-Champs:#Speller5 Rishik Gandhasri#Speller93 Erin Howard#Speller132 Saketh Sundar#Speller307 Shruthika Padhy#Speller354 Sohum Sukhatankar#Speller407 Abhijay Kodali#Speller427 Christopher Serrao#Speller462 Rohan Raja
— Scripps National Spelling Bee (@ScrippsBee) May 31, 2019
On the way to victory, the contestants still had to field some difficult words in order to truly defeat the dictionary. Raja won for spelling “odylic” (which, according to Merriam-Webster means relating to a hypothetical life energy called “odyll”). Serrao won for “cernuous” (drooping like a plant). Kodali won for “palama” (a.k.a. the webbing aquatic birds have on their feet). And Sukhatankar won for “pendeloque” (a gemstone cut into the shape of a pear).
Meanwhile, Padhy won for “aiguillette” (the braided loops on some military uniforms). Sundar won for “bougainvillea” (an ornamental tropical plant). Howard won for “erysipelas” (a type of bacterial infection). And Gandhasri won for “auslaut” (the final sound in a word or syllable.)
Congratulations to the winners — and condolences to the egos of everyone else who watched them do it.