West Melbourne girl makes it to top 6 in National Spelling Bee finals, misspells 'aetites'

by: Chris Updated:

The 13-year-old is a finalist in the National Spelling Bee Finals. (Image courtesy ESPN)
WASHINGTON —

For the first time in 52 years, two spellers have been declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York, and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas, shared the title after a riveting final-round duel Thursday night 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, Sriram opened the door to an upset by 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.

Among this year's 12 finalists was 13-year-old Mary Horton, of West Melbourne. Mary, who is home schooled. She has a brother and sister who have both competed in the event previously.

Horton made it to the top six, but spelled "aetites," a nodule of clay ironstone the size of a walnut, incorrectly.

Last year's third-place finisher, 14-year-old Sriram Hathwar of Corning, New York, is back this year and will compete against 11 newcomers in the finals Thursday evening.

The highly touted Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, a three-time finalist whose older sister won the 2009 bee, was bounced in Thursday's semifinals. She spelled both words correctly onstage but didn't score highly enough on two computerized spelling and vocabulary tests to advance.

First-time National Spelling Bee participant Jacob Williamson of Cape Coral, Florida, sunk to his knees and pounded the stage after hearing his name called among the finalists. He says he was shocked that he made it and that Vanya did not.

Here are the tests Mary has taken and the words she has spelled at the National Spelling Bee:

These are word she spelled in local and qualifying competitions:

  • protectorate
  • balalaika
  • tchotchke
  • frivolity
  • prostrate
  • fleeciness
  • recurrence
  • billionaire
  • tractable
  • sextant
  • diglot