Entertainment ‘Octo-champs’: Eight students receive $US50,000 each after US spelling bee ends in tie

‘Octo-champs’: Eight students receive $US50,000 each after US spelling bee ends in tie

Co-champions from across the US hold up the one trophy (they'll get a Scripps cup each) after 20 rounds of competition. Photo: Getty
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In an unprecedented end to the three-day US Scripps National Spelling Bee competition, eight students have each won $US50,000 ($72,000) in an eight-way tie.

Dubbed the ‘Octo-champs’, the students took the annual spelling bee competition, in its 94th year, to a new high by being too savvy for any word thrown their way.

The collective smarty pants were asked to spell words such as “oryzivorous” – an adjective, meaning feeding on rice, “heiau” – a noun for a pre-Christian Hawaiian temple right through to the very difficult word “plumbiferous”, meaning containing lead.

Faced with a dwindling word list and a group of spellers that showed no weakness, the Scripps National Spelling Bee gave up and declared them co-champions in what was the most extraordinary ending.

The eight co-champions spelled the final 47 words correctly in their historic walk-off victory, going through five consecutive perfect rounds.

“Champion spellers, we are now in uncharted territory,” bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly told them in announcing the decision to allow up to 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.”

He was not lying. The bee held three more rounds after that, and no one missed a word or even appeared to struggle.

Each winner received the full $US50,000 prize money in cash after 20 rounds of competition.

The winners, who dubbed themselves “octo-champs”, were: Rishik Gandhasri (San Jose, California), Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy (Cherry HIll, New Jersey), Sohum Sukhatankar (Dallas, Texas), Abhijay Kodali (Flower Mound, Texas), Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja (Irving, Texas).

From 2014 to 2016, the bee ended with co-champions.

In 2017 and last year, the bee had a written tiebreaker test of spelling and vocabulary that would be used to identify a single champion if necessary.

It did not turn out to be needed, and bee officials decided the test was too burdensome and got rid of it.

-with AAP