OXON HILL, Md. – The Latest on finals of the National Spelling Bee (all times local):
The words were tougher. The final rounds lasted longer. The result was the same.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for the third consecutive year Thursday night, with Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga declared co-champions after a roller-coaster finish.
Thirteen-year-old Jairam is the younger brother of the 2014 co-champion, Sriram Hathwar. Nihar, at age 11, is the youngest winner of the bee on record.
Scripps made the bee tougher after two consecutive ties, forcing the last two spellers to get through three times as many words as in years past.
Jairam misspelled two words, but both times, Nihar followed up with a miss and the bee continued.
Each will receive a trophy and $45,000 in cash and prizes.
After four brutally difficult hours and some surprising eliminations, 10 spellers are left in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Scripps made some rule changes to make the competition more difficult, and it was evident in the first round Thursday morning, when 24 out of 45 spellers got their words wrong.
Two spellers made the top 10 for the second straight year: 13-year-old Sylvie Lamontagne of Lakewood, Colorado; and 13-year-old Snehaa Kumar of Folsom, California. But Tejas Muthusamy of Glen Allen, Virginia, who made the top 10 the last two years, was eliminated.
Two 11-year-olds made the top 10. Either would be the youngest winner on record.
The championship finals will be broadcast live on ESPN Thursday night. The winner gets more than $45,000 in cash and prizes.
The final day of the Scripps National Spelling Bee could feature the most difficult words ever used in the competition.
Bee organizers decided to make changes after the competition ended in a tie the past two years. This year, the final three spellers could be forced to spell more, and judges can adjust the difficulty of the winning words as needed.
Also, the bee got rid of a second written test that was used to help pare the field down to 10 finalists. That means Thursday's morning rounds will be as difficult as necessary to eliminate 35 spellers.
Three spellers who finished in last year's top 10 remain in the bee. The winner gets more than $45,000 in cash and prizes.