Harini Logan: Texas teen wins Spelling Bee after first tiebreaker

Fourteen-year-old, of San Antonio, wins first-ever ‘spell-off’ in national US competition, taking home $50,000 prize.

Harini Logan
Harini Logan, 14, from San Antonio, Texas, holds the trophy after winning the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee held at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, June 2 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Harini Logan, of San Antonio, has won the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee after a first-ever “spell-off” was required for a champion to emerge in the extremely close competition.

Logan, 14, takes home $50,000 from Scripps, plus further money prizes and reference works from Merriam-Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica.

She beat Vikram Raju, 12, of Denver on Thursday after their neck-and-neck competition required a “spell-off” to decide the winner. The second-place prize is $25,000.

They claimed the top spots in the competition that pitted spellers ages seven to 15 from across the United States and as far away as Guam for the 94th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. This year’s competition was held at National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.

In the spell-off, each competitor had 90 seconds to spell as many words correctly as possible. Raju went first and spelled 15 words correctly of the 19 he attempted.

Logan, who waited for her turn in a sound-proof area, emerged to spell 21 words correctly of the 26 she attempted.

Both had the same list of words read to them, ringing a bell to signal they were ready to advance to the next word.

Most Bee contestants were middle-school-aged and all were required to test negative for COVID-19 to participate and were masked onstage except when actively competing.

Logan is an eighth-grade student at The Montessori School of San Antonio. This was her fourth and final year as a Bee contender.

Last year, when Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans correctly spelled “Murraya,” a genus of plants, she became the first African American to win the prestigious competition that began in 1925.

The Bee was televised live. Play-by-play commentary heightens the excitement as contestants rack their brains to come up with the correct spellings for often obscure words.

After 27 years of being broadcast live on the cable sports channel ESPN, this year’s live show was moved to ION and Bounce, both networks owned by a Scripps subsidiary. The show’s host was actor LeVar Burton.

In 2019, an eight-way tie included such mind-bending winning words as “erysipelas,” a skin infection; “auslaut,” the final sound in a word or syllable; “palama,” webbing on the feet of aquatic birds; “pendeloque,” a pear-shaped gemstone or glass pendant; “odylic,” related to a hypothetical life force; “cernuous,” drooping, “bougainvillea,” a climbing plant; and “aiguillette,” the braided ornament on military uniforms.

“Huge CONGRATULATIONS to the 2022 Scripps National #SpellingBee Champion, Harini Logan… Way to represent our city!” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote on Twitter on late on Thursday.

Texas Congressman Tony Gonzales also congratulated Logan. “Harini showed incredible dedication and hard work to bring home the gold,” he wrote in a social media post. “We are so proud of you!”

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters