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National Spelling Bee Crowns Co-Champs For Second Straight Year

Vanya Shivashankar, left, of Olathe, Kan., and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Mo., lift the trophy after becoming co-champions Thursday night after the final round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland.
Vanya Shivashankar, left, of Olathe, Kan., and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Mo., lift the trophy after becoming co-champions Thursday night after the final round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland.

Etymology? He don't need no stinkin' etymology.

Informed that the word list was running out, and a final correct spelling would result in a tie with Vanya Shivashankar, Gokul Venkatachalam was served his final word (nunatak) and volleyed it right back, n-u-n-a-t-a-k. Even the audience was denied a definition (it's an Inuit term for an exposed, rocky geographic element amid an ice field or glacier).

It created co-champions of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee for the second consecutive year.

By correctly spelling "scherenschnitte" — a German term for cut-paper art — Vanya, 13, of Olathe, Kan., became the first sibling of a former champion to take home the trophy. Her sister, Kavya Shivashankar, won in 2009 on the word Laodicean, meaning lukewarm.

Gokul, 14, from Chesterfield, Mo., finished in third place last year — missing the word Kierkegaardian, relating to the Danish philosopher, according to St. Louis TV station KSDK — behind the first co-champions the spelling bee had had in 52 years. Now it's had two winners two years in a row.

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