NEW YORK • A superhuman group of adolescents has broken the Scripps National Spelling Bee, with eight contestants crowned co-champions after the competition said it was running out of challenging words.
Last Thursday's result was stunning; the annual event has had six two-way ties in its 92 years but never experienced such a logjam at the top.
After the 17th round, Mr Jacques Bailly, the event's pronouncer, announced that any of the eight remaining contestants who made it through three more words would share the prize.
"We do have plenty of words remaining in our list, but we'll soon run out of words that will challenge you," Mr Bailly told the contestants at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre in Maryland.
He added: "We're throwing the dictionary at you. And so far, you are showing this dictionary who is boss."
None of the contestants, aged 12 to 14, faltered.
The final words spelt by the contestants were:
They each got their own moment of triumph as they correctly spelt their words in the 20th round, then patiently sat back in their chairs as the following contestants had their moments.
They supported one another with high-fives and hugs, and each placed a hand on a single trophy.
The final words spelt by the champions were: auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous, odylic.
The competition normally offers a US$50,000 prize (S$68,700) to the champion. Instead of splitting it eight ways, all eight contestants will receive US$50,000 each and their own trophies.
There have been marathon spelling bees before - the 2017 event went 36 rounds, with two spellers battling it out after the 17th round - but the competition has never hosted such a large group of spellers who could not be defeated.
The field is typically winnowed down to fewer than four by the 16th round.