National Spelling Bee Ends In A Tie As Co-Winner Is Youngest Champ Ever

A nail-biting spelling competition ended with two winners, with one of them setting a major record. The 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee was held on Thursday, and for the third year in a row, the final round ended in a tie.

Jairam Hathwar, 13, and Nihar Saireddy Janga, 11, are this year’s Spelling Bee co-champions, with Janga setting a record as the youngest champion to win. It was a tense-filled showdown as the final round lasted more than hour before Hathwar and Janga were declared the co-winners, as reported by People.

ESPN aired the Spelling Bee competition after the top 10 finalists were sorted out. There were 284 contestants competing this year at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland.

The National Spelling Bee competition lasted 25 rounds, with Janga almost winning the competition as the sole champion. Hathwar misspelled the word “drahthaar,” which is German for dog; Janga just had to spell two more words to win the championship. Janga ended up misspelling “ayacahuite” which is a large Mexican pine tree, but he correctly spelled “rafraichissoir,” an 18th century table, to stay in the competition.

That gave Hathwar another chance to take the title, but he ended up making another mistake a few rounds later when he couldn’t spell “mischsprache,” a language formed from a mixture of more than two existing languages, correctly. That gave Janga an edge to win, but he ended up misspelling “tetradrachm,” a word for an ancient Greek silver coin.

When the 25th round came around, Hathwar and Janga completed it without making any more spelling errors, and the judges granted the two boys co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Hathwar’s winning word was “feldenkrais,” a type of movement method, while Janga’s final word was “gesellschaft,” which means a type of a social relationship.

Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga, 2016 National Spelling Bee co-winners, Scripps National Spelling Bee
The two boys, who are also friends, rooted for each other and gave each other high fives once the competition was over. The two co-champions not only get to share the trophy, but they each received $40,000 and other extra prizes.

“It was just insane,” Hathwar claimed as he and Janga held up the golden winner’s cup for pictures. This win makes Hathwar, a Painted Post, New York, resident, the second member in his family to win the championship. His older brother, Sriram, was the 2014 National Spelling Bee co-winner.

Scripps National Spelling Bee, 2016 National Spelling Bee victory
Janga, a native of Austin, Texas, is currently the youngest winner ever of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I’m just speechless. I can’t say anything. I’m only in fifth grade.”

The previous youngest winner was Wendy Guey, who was 12-years-old at the time she won the Spelling Bee championship in 1996. Earlier records of older Spelling Bee competitions are incomplete, according to Scripps.

Janga’s co-win even caught the attention of Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. Janga performed Bryant’s signature touchdown move of crossing his arms together after he and Hathwar were announced as the co-winners.

Bryant sent out a tweet congratulating Janga on winning the Spelling Bee championship, and mentioned that he’s going to get Janga tickets to a football game.

Snehaa Ganesh Kumar of Folsom, California, placed third place after Hathwar and Janga. The 13-year-old Kumar lasted just one round against the co-winners.

Janga is currently the youngest co-champion, but Akasha Vukoti is the youngest contestant to ever compete at the National Spelling Bee. The 6-year-old first grader lost in the preliminary rounds when he misspelled the word “bacteriolytic,” which means the destruction of bacteria, during the second time he was called to the podium.

Meanwhile, Janga and Hathwar have been making the rounds in TV and radio circuits as they talk about their spelling bee experience to various hosts.

[Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images]