Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, was declared champion of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, winning on the word “koinonia.”
In doing so, the 14-year-old emerged the top speller from a record-shattering 515 contestants at the national bee, compared with 291 last year, after organizers expanded eligibility.
Along the way, he had to outlast a field of 16 finalists who vanquished words such as “Praxitelean,” “ispaghul” and “telyn” – sometimes without batting an eyelash – in a breathtaking show of spelling skill broadcast live on ESPN.
Nemmani also continued a longtime trend by becoming the 14th champion or co-champion of South Asian descent the bee has had in 11 consecutive years.
The 16 finalists took the stage at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland to battle it out for the title of champion. The competition was, in a word, brutal.
In the first round of ESPN-televised spelling Thursday night, nearly half of the finalists misspelled their words, including several crowd favorites such as Tara Singh, a 13-year-old from Kentucky who was competing at her fifth and final national bee.
To even get to that point, the finalists had to survive nearly five hours of onstage spelling that started Thursday morning. Bee officials said the plan had been to whittle down the field to about a dozen contestants for the prime-time competition.
It would take five rounds of onstage spelling to get to 16, the largest group ever to head into the championship finals.