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It's A Tie! National Spelling Bee Ends With Co-Champions For Third Straight Year

After correctly spelling "feldenkrais" and "gessellschaft," Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar were declared winners of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Posted on May 26, 2016, at 11:15 p.m. ET


For the third straight year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie.

Nihar Saireddy Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Jagadeesh Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, New York, were declared co-champions Thursday night after what seemed like countless rounds of correctly-spelled words.

The fifth grader and seventh grader, respectively, spelled "feldenkrais" and "gessellschaft" correctly to win the championship.

Other words they spelled correctly included "haab," "phulkari," "groenendael," "euchologion," "euchologion," "kjeldahl," "pavonazzetto," "guignolet," "juamave," and "zindiq."

This is the ninth year in a row that an Indian-American has won the competition and the third straight year that the competition has ended in a tie.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Nihar Saireddy Janga of Austin, TX, leaps for joy upon spelling the last word to become a co-champion.

Janga, the youngest-ever Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, was nicknamed "The Machine" by one of the judges. He wasn't the only person who was seriously impressed with his spelling skills.

this 5th grader is amazing at this #spellingbee !

In the final rounds of the competition, Hathwar stumbled on "drathaar," and Janga stumbled on the word "ayacahuite," allowing the Bee to continue.

Last year, Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam were declared co-champions after correctly spelling every word judges gave the eighth graders.

In 2014, Ansun Sujoe and Sriram Hathwar both won. Jariam Hathwar said his older brother's win in 2014 inspired him to compete.

After the back-to-back ties, Scripps decided to change the rules for 2016 to challenge spellers with more difficult words and to increase the number of championship rounds for this year's competition.

In prior years, only 25 predetermined words were set, but this year as many as 75 words were prepared for the competition.

"This does not remove the possibility of having multiple champions, it just makes that feat even more difficult to achieve," Valerie Miller, a Scripps spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News at the time of the rule change.

That possibility came true Thursday night.

In addition to an engraved trophy, both champions win a $40,000 cash prize plus a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, and a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster. They also will receive a free trip to New York City to appear on Live! with Kelly.

Janga's father also promised him they could attend a game at AT&T stadium if he won.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Co-champions Nihar Saireddy Janga (2nd R) and Jairam Jagadeesh Hathwar are swept up into the arms of family members upon completion of the final round.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.