Winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee is never easy. However, this year's champion, Harini Logan, faced some unexpected twists and turns, including an unprecedented spell-off in the final round on June 2, 2022. But the poised 14-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, prevailed to take home the coveted title, trophy, and over $50,000 in cash and prizes.
The three-day event, held in National Harbor, Maryland, began with 229 spellers. This was Logan's fourth attempt at the competition. The 14-year-old, who came in 31st in 2021, made it to the final twelve with relative ease. She faced a big setback in the multiple-choice vocabulary round after her definition of "pullulation" was rejected. Logan described its meaning as the "nesting of mating birds," but Scripps defined the word as the "swarming of bees." Logan was eliminated but reinstated after the judges realized her description was also correct.
Back in the competition, Logan successfully forged ahead until she faced just one other speller, 12-year-old Vikram Raju from Aurora, Colorado. As the competition got increasingly challenging, Logan misspelled four words. Fortunately, her competitor missed just as many, leading to a stalemate.
To break the tie, the judges challenged Logan and Raju to the 94-year-old competition's first-ever "spell-off." It required both contestants to correctly spell as many words as possible from a predetermined list in 90 seconds. Unlike previous rounds, they were not allowed to ask about the word's meaning, part of speech, or origin.
Raju managed to get 15 of the 19 right, while Logan spelled 21 of the 26 words correctly. According to Scripps, the winning word that moved her past Raju was "moorhen" — female medium-sized water birds that live in aquatic environments. Logan's exciting win is one for the history books. She is the first Scripps champion to be reinstated into the competition and the first to win it in a spell-off.
With her biggest challenge conquered, Logan now plans to focus on her next goal — publishing her first book before graduating from high school. We have no doubt she will accomplish her dream!
Resources: Spellingbee.com, NPR.com, USAtoday, CBS.com