For the first time in 52 years, two spellers were declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday -- and one of them is from North Texas.
Ansun Sujoe of Euless shares the title with Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, after a riveting final-round duel in which they nearly exhausted the 25 designated championship words. After they spelled a dozen words correctly in a row, they both were named champions.
Earlier, 14-year-old Sriram opened the door to an upset by 13-year-old Ansun after he misspelled "corpsbruder," a close comrade. But Ansun was unable to take the title because he got "antegropelos," which means waterproof leggings, wrong.
Sriram entered the final round as the favorite after finishing in third place last year. Ansun just missed the semifinals last year.
They become the fourth co-champions in the bee's 89-year history and the first since 1962.
Ansun was more nervous and demonstrative, no more so than on the word that gave him a share of the title: "feuilleton," the features section of a European newspaper or magazine.
"Ah, whatever!" Ansun said before beginning to spell the word as the stage lights turned red, signaling that he had 30 seconds left.
“I was pretty happy when I made the finals, and now I’m even happier that I’m the co-champion,” Sujoe, 13, said as he accepted the trophy. … It was the highest a Fort Worth-area competitor has placed since Barrie Trinkle in 1973. Samir Patel of Colleyville made it to the nationals five times, placing third in 2005. ...
In the last hour, Sujoe calmly and carefully spelled croquignole, Aeschylean, lotophagi, ctenoid and gemeinschaft. He and Hathwar both missed a word. But Sujoe resumed with hyblaean, augenphilologie, holluschick, paixtle, terreplein and feuilleton.
Sujoe’s parents sat nervously in the audience, his mother often clutching her forehead and eyes. They describe Sujoe as a self-motivated and well-focused worker. He has a “God-given talent,” said his mother, Angel Sujoe.
All spellers have their own habits, their own way of getting through each word. For Sujoe, it was tracing the letters on his number card. For almost every word he spelled correctly, there was a hint that he knew the word. He would smile or nod slightly halfway through a definition or while listening to a sentence. Sometimes he nervously laughed.
Here's video of the winning moment: