KANSAS CITY, MO — E-P-I-C. S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G. C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N. Two Missouri students went more than 60 rounds Saturday in a spelling bee that had to be called because organizers ran out of words.
The battle was between Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader at Highland Park Elementary, and Kush Sharma, a seventh-grader at Frontier School of Innovation. It was held at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.
“We didn’t want to just go through the dictionary and give them more words. We feared that someone would get a word that was too easy while the other would get an extremely difficult word. We wanted to be a bit more calculated and neutral, and we wanted to give each an equal opportunity,” said Mary Olive Thompson, outreach coordinator for Kansas City Public Library.
The original pool of 25 students was quickly whittled to just Sophia and Kush.
The two will go head to head again next month for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The program provides a list of words for contests across the country. Sophia and Kush burned through that list, as well as 20 other words organizers picked from the dictionary when they realized it was possible they might need more words, Thompson said.
“The officials were fatigued. The kids weren’t tired. They had endless energy and were doing an amazing job,” she added.
Kush can’t remember exactly what word was the hardest for him to spell — something French that started with an “R.”
He told CNN he will work hard for the rematch and would study every free minute of the day if he scores a place in the national bee.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how far Sophia can push me and how far my skills can go,” he said.
For Sophia, the most difficult word was schadenfreude, which describes the enjoyment one can get from someone else’s bad luck.
She knows how to spell the word, but she apparently doesn’t feel it.
“Kush worked really hard. I wish we could both go (to the national competition),” Sophia said.
By Dana Ford and Janet DiGiacomo