Missouri spelling bee runs out of words

Sophia Hoffman and Kush Sharma were tied after 66 rounds of the Jackson County spelling bee.

By Gabrielle Levy
Missouri spelling bee runs out of words
Sophia and Kush both hope to compete for the trophy at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. UPI/Pete Marovich | License Photo

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Two Missouri students were so evenly matched at the Jackson County spelling bee the coordinators had to call it a tie -- at least until a rematch next month to determine who goes on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader of Highland Park Elementary in Lee's Summit, went head-to-head with Kush Sharma, a seventh-grader from Frontier School of Innovation in Kansas City, for 66 rounds in Saturday's bee, with no winner emerging.


Sophia and Kush were the only two competitors left standing after 19 rounds. After three hours, the coordinators broke for lunch, and picked an additional 20 words out of the dictionary. Last year's bee, for comparison, went just 21 rounds.

"We ran out of words," said Mary Olive Thompson, a library outreach manager at the Kansas City Public Library, and co-coordinator of the bee. "It was legendary."

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Officials decided to call it a temporary tie after they ran through all the words approved by Scripps and the 20 bonus words.

Sophia managed "schadenfreude," "mahout" and "barukhzy," while Kush nailed "scherzo," "fantoccini" and "intaglio." They both missed a the same word, one that Kush described as "a French word; I have no idea how to pronounce it."


Sophia and Kush will face off on March 8 to determine who goes on to compete at the National Bee in Washington, DC., in May.

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And they'll have an extra challenge: While the initial bee stuck to 300 pre-approved words, the next round could come from anywhere in the 1,664-page Merriam-Webster's 11th Edition dictionary.

“Memorize a dictionary?" said A.K. Sharma, Kush's father. "Come on!"

But Thompson saw something special.

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“Sophia and Kush’s eyes were just bright and glowing," she said. "It was almost magical.”

[Kansas City Star]

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