The words were tougher. The final rounds lasted longer. The result was the same. The Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for the third consecutive year Thursday night, with Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga declared co-champions after a roller-coaster finish. Jairam, 13, is the younger brother of the 2014 co-champion, Sriram Hathwar. Nihar, at age 11, is the youngest winner of the bee on record. "I'm just speechless," Nihar said as he hoisted the trophy. "I mean, I'm only in fifth grade!" Scripps made the bee tougher after two consecutive ties, forcing the last two spellers to get through three times as many words as in years past. Each will receive a trophy and $45,000 in cash and prizes.
Because the best spellers become fluent in Latin and Greek roots, the bee went to words derived from trickier or more obscure languages, including Afrikaans, Danish, Irish Gaelic, Maori, and Mayan. Jairam's winning word was "Feldenkrais," which is derived from a trademark and means a system of body movements intended to ease tension. Nihar won with "gesellschaft," which means a mechanistic type of social relationship. Snehaa Kumar of Folsom, Calif., finished third, and Sylvie Lamontagne of Lakewood, Colo., was fourth. Both are 13-year-old eighth-graders, meaning this year was their last chance. (A 6-year-old contestant said goodbye after missing "bacteriolytic" on Wednesday.)