A late night showdown between a young girl and boy at the Scripps National Spelling Bee has landed a sixth-grader the championship title and $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Winner twelve-year-old Ananya Vinay from Fresno, California, faced off against 14-year-old Rohan Rajeev, each correctly spelling heiligenschein, durchkomponiert, and sceloporus over 21 championship rounds in the lead up to the winning word.
When Rajeev failed to spell the Scandinavian-derived word “marram” during his turn, Ananya spelled two in a row correctly. The word that broke the stalemate: “marocain,” which refers to a dress fabric of ribbed crêpe.
Ananya didn’t seem at all worried about the difficulty of the words and later said: “I knew them all.”
At 11:30 a.m. Ananya was on the stage with confetti falling all around her as her parents and brother ran to embrace her in celebration.
When she was told that she would have to give a speech during the closing ceremonies Friday, she said it wouldn’t be a problem. She had already prepared one week in advance to “motivate me to study more,” Ananya told the Associated Press.
The 90th National Spelling Bee was broadcast on sports network ESPN and this year featured the youngest speller in the event’s 90-year history, six-year-old Edith Fuller of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the first round she correctly spelled “nyctinasty.”
Along with 100 other spellers, little Edith’s test score wasn’t high enough to make the finals. But she has other plans for the future and hopes to invent a new kind of refrigerator, she said at a press conference.
Ananya’s win marks the first time since 2013 that a single victor has won. The event has been tied for three straight years and this year added a tie breaker test to the competition that hosts contestants up to age 15.