The 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee went where no other version of the competition had gone before: a spell-off.
The event’s two final competitors, Harini Logan of San Antonio, Texas, and Vikram Raju of Aurora, Colorado, each missed two straight words between Rounds 13 and 18.
At that point, the judges decided to commence the first spell-off in Scripps National Spelling Bee history. The objective was simple for Logan and Raju; they had 90 seconds to spell as many words as possible.
The Sporting News breaks down what happened next:
Scripps National Spelling Bee winner 2022
Harini Logan dashed through the historic spell-off, successfully spelling 22 words compared to Vikram Raju’s 15.
Logan secured the storied Scripps Cup trophy after acing the spelling of the word “moorhen” — a term defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as an “an aquatic bird (Gallinula chloropus) of the rail family that is widespread in the New World, Eurasia, and Africa and that has a red bill, red frontal area on the head, and a white band on the flanks.”
You really do learn something new every day.
a shame that Boston’s killer 4th quarter came in second tonight to the first ever Spelling Bee spell off— Jessica Benson (@jessbensontv) June 3, 2022
“Just so surreal, this is such a dream,” Logan said.
Logan’s victory almost didn’t happen. The 14-year old-thought she tripped up during the word meaning round after hearing that wretched bell ring when her answer for “pullulation” was rejected. However, after the judges deliberated over the definition of the term — which apparently can mean “to breed” as well as “to swarm” — they ruled that Logan could continue.
In yet another twist tonight - Harini Logan was just reinstated to the Finals, after #SpellingBee judges announced that she did, in fact, give a correct definition for pullulation. https://t.co/WmCOenHu06— Maya Rodriguez (@MayaJRodriguez) June 3, 2022
“There was a few minutes in between that were frantic,” Logan, a student at St. Montessori School in San Antonio, said.
And after being on the brink of elimination, Logan rolled through the rest of the competition, setting up the sudden-death spell-off with the 12-year-old Raju.
It was like the best game of hangman you’d ever see; the typical rules that define the Scripps National Spelling Bee format were thrown out. Judges weren’t allowed to give contestants part of speech, etymology or definition. Simply put, it was all about the art of spelling.
“We activated the spell-off because it was the best chance to show the extent of these spellers’ preparation,” Bee executive director Dr. J. Michael Durnil said. “Clearly, they demonstrated their deep capacity for the competition.”
Raju went first, reciting the spelling of words while Logan sat in a room backstage with noise-canceling headphones on. Apparently, she was listening to classical music.
“At first I was a little uneasy and just decided to take it in stride,” Logan said. “We knew it was going to be a part of the competition, if it came down to it.”
Logan reeled in the $50,000 cash prize, as well as additional awards from Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster. Most importantly, though, she captured that beautiful porcelain trophy, adorned by an array of colorful flowers and buzzing bees.
“She is incredible. She is brilliant. She is poised,” said Grace Walters, a former speller and one of Logan’s coaches. “I’ve watched her encounter so many challenges in her journey and she tackles every one of them and moves forward with an exuberant smile.”