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US spelling bee hits snag, runs out of words

For 66 rounds, Sophia Hoffman and Kush Sharma dueled at the contest in Missouri, till the organisers ran out of words

Kanas City: Scherzo, fantoccini and intaglio. Schadenfreude, mahout and barukhzy.

There wasn’t a word 11-year-old Sophia Hoffman, and her 13-year-old adversary, Kush Sharma, couldn’t nail during a Missouri county spelling bee on Saturday.


Spelling champs: Sophia Hoffman and Kush Sharma beat every word thrown at them

For 66 rounds, the pair dueled — until finally the judges declared they had run out of words.

“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.

She added, “The officials were fatigued. The kids weren’t tired. They had endless energy and were doing an amazing job.”

Kush can’t remember exactly what word was the hardest for him to spell — something French that started with an ‘R.’ “I have no idea how to pronounce it. It was a long word.”

For Sophia, the most difficult word was schadenfreude.

The contest resumes on March 8. The winner goes to the national spelling bee in Washington in May.

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