Spelling Bee Winner Was Eliminated, Then Reinstated

Harini Logan won first-ever tiebreaker
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 3, 2022 4:25 AM CDT
Harini Logan Wins Scripps Spelling Bee in First-Ever Tiebreaker
Vikram Raju, 12, from Aurora, Colo., thinks before spelling his word during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Oxon Hill, Md.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Harini Logan was eliminated from the Scripps National Spelling Bee once, then reinstated. She subsequently missed four words in a grueling standoff against Vikram Raju, including one that would have given her the title. Then it was on to the first-ever lightning-round tiebreaker; Harini finally claimed the trophy. The 14-year-old eighth-grader from San Antonio, Texas, who competed in the last fully in-person bee three years ago and endured the pandemic to make it back, spelled 21 words correctly during a 90-second spell-off, beating Vikram by six. Harini, one of the best-known spellers entering the bee and a crowd favorite for her poise and positivity, wins more than $50,000 in cash and prizes, the AP reports.

Perhaps no champion has ever had more final-round flubs, but Harini was no less deserving. The key moment came during the bee's much-debated multiple-choice vocabulary round, when Harini defined the word "pullulation" as the nesting of mating birds. Scripps said the correct answer was the swarming of bees. But wait! "We did a little sleuthing after you finished, which is what our job is, to make sure we’ve made the right decision," head judge Mary Brooks said to Harini. "We (did) a little deep dive in that word and actually the answer you gave to that word is considered correct, so we’re going to reinstate you."

From there, Harini breezed into the finals against Vikram. They each spelled two words correctly. Then Scripps brought out the toughest words of the night. Both misspelled. Then Vikram missed again and Harini got "sereh" right, putting her one word away from the title. The word was "drimys," and she got it wrong. Two more rounds, two more misspelled words by each, and Scripps brought out the podium and buzzer for the lightning round. Harini was faster and sharper throughout, and the judges' final tally confirmed her victory. The last fully in-person version of the bee had no tiebreaker and ended in an eight-way tie. The 2020 bee was canceled because of the pandemic, and in 2021 it was mostly virtual, with only 11 finalists gathering in Florida.

(More Scripps National Spelling Bee stories.)

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