12-year-old emerges as winner of Scripps Spelling Bee

A 12-year-old seventh grader from Tampa, Florida, emerged as the champion of the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee in a highly anticipated spell-off. This marked only the second time in the competition’s history that a spell-off was required to determine the winner.

Bruhat Soma clinched the title in a thrilling showdown against 12-year-old Faizan Zaki of Plano, Texas, delivering a spellbinding performance.

Soma emerged as the champion with the word “abseil,” which refers to “a descent in mountaineering using a rope looped over a projection above,” according to Scripps.

“I can’t put it into words,” Bruhat exclaimed during a television interview on stage, as confetti rained down. “I’m still trembling.”

In the spell-off, contestants are challenged to spell as many words correctly as possible within a 90-second time limit. Faizan Zaki managed to spell 20 words, but Soma surpassed him by spelling 29 words. The New York Times reported that Soma’s impressive list included words like “heautophany,” “nachschläge,” and “puszta.”

Soma had participated in the prestigious spelling bee before. In 2022, as a fifth-grader, he achieved a commendable performance, tying for 163rd place. The following year, he made significant progress and finished tied for 74th.

This year, he exerted a tremendous effort and crossed the finish line just in time to hold the trophy triumphantly above his head. As the customary confetti showered upon him and Zaki in the center of the stage, they exchanged a handshake, both appearing somewhat captivated.

According to Cole Shafer-Ray, a spelling coach who participated in the event from 2013 to 2015, a successful spelling bee relies on accurately identifying the challenging aspects of words. He expressed concerns about how the bee determines a winner in such circumstances.

According to a recent interview with The Times, the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition this year has seen an increase in examples where the word selection does not accurately reflect the difficulty level. In order to address this issue, the suggestion is made to involve former spellers in the process of choosing the words. The idea is that these individuals, who have recent experience with the competition, would be better equipped to select words that appropriately challenge the participants.

According to Shafer-Ray, spell-offs can be thrilling, but he believes they should only be used as a last resort. He stated, “Testing an entirely new skill should be considered carefully.”

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