OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — When the confetti flew, the two boys stood in the center of the stage and shook hands. They held up the trophy together. Both were champions, a Spelling Bee finish unseen in more than half a century.
After all, it wouldn't have seemed right for one of them to finish second. Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe had essentially used up the entire list of words the Bee had to offer. The one time Sriram misspelled, Ansun did too. Then they were spot on for their final 12 spellings combined, acing dark-corner-of-the-dictionary stuff like "thymelici," ''encaenia," ''skandhas," ''sdrucciola" and "holluschick."
Sriram had been a favorite to win. Ansun had come out of nowhere. When it was all done, 14-year-old Sriram from Painted Post, New York, and 13-year-old Ansun from Fort Worth, Texas, had each won $30,000 in cash as co-winners of the 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee.
"I think we both know that the competition is against the dictionary and not against each other," Sriram said. "I'm happy to share this trophy with him."
Not since 1962 had the Bee ended in a tie. It came about because the rules state that only 25 words remain once the competition is down to two or three spellers. Sriram thought he was a goner when he stumbled on "corpsbruder" (a close comrade), but Ansun then couldn't handle "antigropelos" (waterproof leggings).
So they kept going, the spelling celebrity and the upstart, and the doomsday bell never sounded again.
Sriram was competing in the Bee for the fifth time and had finished third last year. He had received the full ESPN star treatment. Ansun, looking fashionable in a red bowtie, failed to get out of the preliminaries in his only previous appearance — and was one of Sriram's fans.