Scripps National Spelling Bee ends in unprecedented 8-way tie after 20 rounds

/ CBS/AP

8-way tie at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Oxon Hill, Md. — The Scripps National Spelling Bee was brought to its knees Thursday night into early Friday by eight spellers who were too poised, too prepared and too savvy for any word thrown their way. Faced with a dwindling word list and a group of spellers who showed no weakness, Scripps gave up and declared them co-champions, the most extraordinary ending in the 92-year history of the competition.

The eight co-champions spelled the final 47 words correctly in their historic walk-off victory, going through five consecutive perfect rounds. The competition had 20 rounds in all.

"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."

Trending News

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

Earlier, he said, "We're throwing the dictionary at you, and, so far, you are showing the dictionary who's boss," the Reuters news agency noted.

The winners, six boys and two girls from Alabama, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, ranged in age from 12 to 14 and dubbed themselves "octo-champs." They winners were:

E.W. Scripps CEO Adam Symson, right, presents a trophy to the eight co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Friday, May 31, 2019, in Oxon Hill, Md. The spelling bee ended in unprecedented 8-way championship tie after organizers ran out of challenging words. Patrick Semansky / AP

Although the bee had decided to split the first- and second-place money in the event of a tie, those plans were quickly scuttled and each speller was given the full $50,000 cash prize. The three-day event began with 562 contestants from the U.S., U.S. territories and six other nations, the Reuters said.

From 2014-2016, 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 didn't turn out to be needed, and bee officials decided the test was too burdensome and got rid of it.

The warning signs of a logjam at the top came earlier Thursday, when the early final rounds, designed to narrow the field from 50 spellers to about a dozen, took five-and-a-half hours and still brought a robust group of 16 kids to the finals.

The bee's rules called for no more than three spellers to share the title. The possibility of four or more winners wasn't considered before Thursday. Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director, said bee officials developed a contingency plan for multiple champions after gauging the spellers' performance in the earlier final rounds.

"When we began to comprehend the mettle of our finalists, we began to think about what could possibly happen this evening," Kimble said. "We went into the evening with the plan that we executed on this evening."

Each winner got a chance to celebrate individually upon completing his or her final word, although some were more demonstrative than others. Shruthika, a 13-year-old from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was staggering to the microphone before her last few words, and after her final word she wobbled back to her chair and wearily shook the hands of her co-champions.

Sohun, a 13-year-old from Dallas, spoke for the group about how they were all satisfied with the result.

"Spellers improve. It's natural and the rate at which people are improving is amazing," said Sohun, a previous winner of both the North South Foundation spelling bee and the South Asian Spelling Bee. "Everyone learns, everyone gets so much better."

But there were murmurs of discontent. Naysa Modi, last year's runner-up who surprisingly missed out on the finals as a result of her score on the preliminary written test, was in tears as the confetti fell.

"I'm really disappointed that I missed finals by a whisker. And to rub salt in the wound even further, I knew every single word that they asked today since this morning," Naysa said in a text message. "However, I feel that all eight champions deserved it and I'd like to congratulate them."

And the consensus among spelling experts in the crowd is that Scripps didn't nearly exhaust the words in the dictionary that can challenge the best spellers.

"This would never happen at my bee," said Rahul Walia, founder of the South Asian Spelling Bee, where Sohum defeated Abhijay for the title last year. "They need to use harder words. The words are available."

The majority of the spellers had personal coaches, and 13 of the 16 used word lists and study materials compiled by ex-spellers Shobha Dasari and her younger brother, Shourav. Shobha, who's 18 and will go to Stanford in the fall, said the proliferation of private coaches and online study guides has simplified speller preparation, but she still gave credit to the champions.

"The kids still have to put in the work," Shobha said.

First published on May 31, 2019 / 12:19 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Spelling Bee

Scripps National Spelling Bee ends in unprecedented 8-way tie

The co-winners dubbed themselves "octo-champs"; organizers said simply they ran out of words challenging enough to put to the super spellers

8M ago

Consider these options before cracking your 401(k)

Need money urgently? Before taking a hardship withdrawal from your 401(k) plan, consider these alternatives

11M ago

Ben & Jerry's plans CBD-infused ice cream if FDA approves

The ice cream brand famous for flavors like "Half Baked" and "Cherry Garcia" awaits FDA's first hearing on CBD edibles

19M ago

New Call of Duty video game to be more mature

Activision's latest Call of Duty franchise release is going back to its own past.

26M ago

Spray cheese would count as food staple under Trump proposal

Department of Agriculture says the changes will benefit SNAP retailers – but consumer advocates say families using food stamps deserve healthier options

46M ago

Spray cheese would count as food staple under Trump proposal

Department of Agriculture says the changes will benefit SNAP retailers – but consumer advocates say families using food stamps deserve healthier options

46M ago

Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez team up to combat corruption in Washington

The unlikely pair want to ban former members of Congress from lobbying

2H ago

Lawyer claims documents reveal census question added to help Republicans

A Republican redistricting effort is caught up in court

2H ago

Warren wants Congress to say that a president can be indicted

"If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States, he would be in handcuffs and indicted"

3H ago

William Barr interview: Read the full transcript

In an exclusive interview CBS News' Jan Crawford pressed the attorney general on a number of issues from obstruction to his new review of the Russia investigation

1H ago

Russian trolls fueled anti-vaccination debate, study finds

Study by George Washington University found trolls ramped up controversy by inflating different viewpoints

1H ago

China still quietly quashing dissent 30 years after Tiananmen Square

Communist government barely acknowledges deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, but it's very aware of the anniversary, and keen to avoid a repeat

2H ago

Automakers and farmers could get walloped by Trump's Mexico tariffs

President Donald Trump's tariffs on Mexico also puts at stake the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

3H ago

Angry Kim Jong Un executing top diplomats? Maybe, maybe not

South Korean newspaper with spotty history of accuracy on North Korea says Kim has killed envoys out of frustration over collapsed U.S. talks

4H ago

2 killed in tense Mideast as Palestinians attack Trump's peace plan

Israeli security forces kill 2 young Palestinians as the Palestinian leader urges Arab nations to shun a looming U.S. peace proposal

5H ago

2019 Tony Awards: Stream songs from this year's nominated musicals, revivals

Fans of musical theater can listen to songs and excerpts from this year's nominated productions, including streams of cast albums and behind-the-scenes video

1H ago

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

May 20 27 photos

R. Kelly charged with new counts of assault

In February, R. Kelly was charged with sexually assaulting four women. Now, he's been charged with 11 new counts of assault. Jericka Duncan has the latest.

17H ago 01:48

Studios rethink film and TV work in states with anti-abortion laws

Half a dozen media companies say they might not fund job-rich productions in states passing anti-abortion legislation

17H ago

Trailer: "Mike Wallace Is Here," a portrait of the legendary newsman

A new documentary features never-before-seen footage and outtakes from Wallace's interviews with some of the most famous and infamous figures of the 20th century

20H ago

New Call of Duty video game to be more mature

Activision's latest Call of Duty franchise release is going back to its own past.

26M ago

FedEx expands delivery to 7 days a week

Shipping giant will deliver on Sundays as it moves to keep up with growing e-commerce volume

20H ago

Salesforce.com bars retailers that sell semi-automatic weapons

Silicon Valley giant to prohibit its business customers from using its e-commerce technology to sell certain firearms

20H ago

Waymo resumes self-driving truck tests on Arizona freeways

Autonomous trucks will hit the roads around Phoenix this week, though initially rigs will have two drivers

22H ago

London police vow to "consider" facial recognition ethics report

While an independent panel said most people didn't mind the technology being used in public, one rights group says police wielding it represents a "clear violation" of privacy law

May 30

Energy Department calls natural gas "freedom gas" in press release

The release isn't the first time the department has associated "freedom" with natural gas

May 29

Thousands of puffins die as climate warms

Mass mortality events are becoming bigger and more frequent in "a changing world"

May 29

Cosmonauts honor spacewalk pioneer on eve of 85th birthday

Cosmonauts dedicate spacewalk to Alexey Leonov, who carried out the first spacewalk in 1965

May 29

Why this year's tornado season is in overdrive

For the year so far, we are closing in on 1,000 tornado reports across the nation

May 29

First-ever photos of albino panda revealed

The nature reserve will install even more cameras now so they can watch the unique panda in its natural habitat

May 28

Ben & Jerry's plans CBD-infused ice cream if FDA approves

The ice cream brand famous for flavors like "Half Baked" and "Cherry Garcia" awaits FDA's first hearing on CBD edibles

19M ago

Russian trolls fueled anti-vaccination debate, study finds

Study by George Washington University found trolls ramped up controversy by inflating different viewpoints

1H ago

Studios rethink film and TV work in states with anti-abortion laws

Half a dozen media companies say they might not fund job-rich productions in states passing anti-abortion legislation

17H ago

Measles cases break 27-year record, CDC says

The tally is so high that measles could lose its status as an officially eliminated disease

14H ago

Louisiana governor signs 6-week abortion ban into law

Louisiana's law doesn't contain exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest

19H ago

Consider these options before cracking your 401(k)

Need money urgently? Before taking a hardship withdrawal from your 401(k) plan, consider these alternatives

11M ago

Ben & Jerry's plans CBD-infused ice cream if FDA approves

The ice cream brand famous for flavors like "Half Baked" and "Cherry Garcia" awaits FDA's first hearing on CBD edibles

19M ago

Stocks slump after Trump threatens Mexico with tariffs

Investors are rattled by President Trump's threat to start a trade war with Mexico, sending auto shares plunging

2H ago

Automakers and farmers could get walloped by Trump's Mexico tariffs

President Donald Trump's tariffs on Mexico also puts at stake the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

3H ago

Wall Street's leading recession signal is flashing yellow

The bond market has some investors worried, especially if U.S.-China relations continue to deteriorate

5H ago

Search for missing mother of 5 takes new turn

Investigators are taking close look at the estranged husband of Jennifer Dulos

1H ago

Whistleblowers help uncover alleged tax scam by polygamist sect members

When a college student helps his girlfriend escape the influence of her polygamist sect, he begins to suspect they are committing "the worst kind of financial crimes" — then they go to the FBI

4H ago

Claus von Bulow, accused of trying to kill wife, dies at 92

The case made national headlines and a book about it by Alan Dershowitz became a bestseller and a movie

11H ago

Man executed for killing pastor with sword and knife

Christopher Lee Price, 46, became the second inmate put to death in Alabama in two weeks

12H ago

Judge raps Trump, gives lenient sentence to El Chapo witness

Vicente Zambada was sentenced Thursday to 15 years for his crimes as a logistics chief for the Sinaloa cartel

18H ago

Cosmonauts honor spacewalk pioneer on eve of 85th birthday

Cosmonauts dedicate spacewalk to Alexey Leonov, who carried out the first spacewalk in 1965

May 29

SpaceX readying crew ship for flight by end of year

SpaceX, working through a Crew Dragon failure probe, is protecting possible end-of-year flight

May 28

NASA awards contract for future moon station

NASA is moving ahead with plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024

May 23

SpaceX pins high hopes on Starlink satellites

SpaceX plans multiple Starlink launches in 2019 to build out space-based internet network

May 23

Costa Rican meteorite is rare "extraterrestrial mud ball"

"It formed in an environment free of life, then was preserved in the cold and vacuum of space for 4.56 billion years, and then dropped in Costa Rica"

May 21

Memorial Day 2019: America honors the fallen

Remembering the sacrifices made by service members in our nation's wars

May 27 37 photos

John & Jacque: A tale of love and war

A look at John Needham, Jacque Villagomez and the events that led to her death

May 25 14 photos

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

May 20 27 photos

Britain's royal great-grandchildren

Prince Harry's new baby Archie is the eighth great-grandchild for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

May 8 9 photos

Met Gala 2019: Red carpet looks

See what all your favorite celebrities wore to fashion's biggest night

May 6 80 photos

Popular

Pompeo begins 4-nation European trip

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Berlin today to begin his four-nation European trip as tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to rise. CBS News State Department reporter Christina Ruffini joined CBSN from Washington with more.

updated 4M ago 05:39

Report: Recalled baby sleeper was untested

A new Washington Post investigation found the Fisher-Price "Rock 'n Play" sleeper did not receive proper safety testing. The product was recalled last month after more than 30 babies died. Todd Frankel, the Washington Post reporter behind the investigation, joined CBSN with details on what they uncovered.

updated 25M ago 05:34

"Whistleblower" exposes polygamous sect

"Whistleblower: Polygamy, Power and Profits: The Case Against the Kingstons" tells the story of a young woman from a polygamous and incestuous breakaway Mormon sect as she speaks out for the first time. Host Alex Ferrer joins CBSN to discuss this episode, which airs Friday, May 31 at 8/7c on CBS.

updated 22M ago 04:53

Joe Mantegna on "Criminal Minds" farewell

Actor Joe Mantegna joined CBSN to talk about the end of "Criminal Minds" and his role as director for the off-Broadway show "I'm Not a Comedian…I'm Lenny Bruce."

updated 19M ago 05:22

China still silencing dissidents

China's communist government barely acknowledges the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators of June 4, 1989, but as CBS News' Ramy Inocencio reports, it's very aware of the anniversary – and keen to avoid a repeat.

1H ago 02:23