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Harini Logan wins National Spelling Bee in first-ever flash tiebreaker | national spelling bee

Harini Logan wins National Spelling Bee in first-ever flash tiebreaker | national spelling bee

Harini Logan was eliminated from the Scripps national spelling bee once, then reinstated. She missed four words in a grueling showdown against Vikram Raju, including one that would have given her the title.

In the first ever whirlwind tiebreaker, Harini finally won the trophy.

The 14-year-old eighth grader from San Antonio, Texas, who last participated in the fully in-person bee three years ago and endured the pandemic to return, spelled 21 words correctly during a period of 90 seconds, beating Vikram by six.

Harini, one of the best-known spellers entering the bee and an audience favorite for her poise and positivity, wins over $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Perhaps no champion has ever had more fouls in the final round, but Harini was no less deserving.

She is the fifth Scripps champion to be coached by Grace Walters, a former speller, fellow Texan, and student at Rice University who is considering retirement from coaching. If so, she will go first.

The key moment came during the bee’s controversial multiple-choice vocabulary trick, when Harini defined the word ‘pullulation’ as the nesting of mating birds. Scripps said the correct answer was swarming bees.

But wait!

“We did a little research after you were done, which is our job, to make sure we made the right decision,” Chief Justice Mary Brooks told Harini. “We (did) dive into that word a bit and in fact the answer you gave to that word is considered correct, so we’re going to reinstate you.”

From there, Harini made it to the finals against Vikram. They each spelled two words correctly. Next, Scripps released the harshest words of the night.

Both misspelled. Then Vikram missed again and Harini got the better of “sereh”, 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 the buzzer for the whirlwind round that all of the finalists had practiced for in the nearly empty ballroom hours earlier.

Harini was faster and sharper throughout the race, and the judges’ final tally confirmed her victory.

The last all-in-person version of the bee had no tiebreaker and ended in an eight-way tie. The 2020 bee was canceled due to the pandemic, and in 2021 it was mostly virtual, with just 11 finalists meeting in Florida as Zaila Vanguard became the first black American champion.

The changes continued this year with Scripps ending its deal with longtime partner ESPN and producing its own TV show for its ION and Bounce networks, with actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton as host. The transition was bumpy at times, with long and uneven commercial breaks that interrupted the action and audio glitches that exposed the inner workings of the show to the in-person crowd.

The bee itself was leaner, with less than half of the participants he had done so in 2019 due to dropping out of sponsors and the end of a wild-card program. And Spellers had to answer vocabulary questions live on stage for the first time, resulting in several surprising eliminations in the semi-finals.

Harini bowing over a vocabulary word was briefly the biggest shock of all. Then she came back on stage, and in the end, she was still there.

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