OXON HILL, Md. – Nihar Janga looked like the strongest speller at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and perhaps the best ever. And he's only 11 years old.
But he stumbled twice, at just the wrong time — or maybe the right time. He still ended up winning, but sharing the title with 13-year-old Jariam Hathwar.
Twice, Jairam missed a word, giving Nihar a chance to seal the title. Both times, Nihar followed up with his own flub. After each nailed his final two words, they were declared co-champions. It was the third year in a row that the bee ended in a tie.
Nihar is the youngest champion on record. Jairam is the younger brother of the 2014 co-champion.
The tie was unexpected after bee officials changed the rules to make it harder.