The Scripps National Spelling Bee has a new champion: 14-year-old Dev Shah of Largo, Florida.
The teen beat out his final opponent, eighth-grader Charlotte Walsh of Arlington, Virginia, by correctly spelling the word, “psammophile,” which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an organism that prefers or thrives in sandy soils or areas.”
“It’s surreal,” Shah said after being announced the champion. “I don’t know if it’s settled in. My legs are still shaking!”
Prior to Shah’s final turn at the mic, Walsh misspelled the word “daviely,” making space for Shah to swoop in and take the victory.
Shah had to spell a total of 15 words in Thursday’s competition, becoming the 95th champion of the Scripps Spelling Bee, and picking up a $50,000 grand prize.
He was one of 11 finalists Thursday. Two competitors were eliminated in the first round after misspelling their words, while a third was eliminated in the second round, in which spellers are prompted with a multiple-choice question about the definition of the word.
Six more students were eliminated in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, including Utah’s Surya Kapu — the only repeating finalist in this year’s bee.
It was then down to Shah versus Walsh. Shah nailed his word, “bathypitotmeter,” while Walsh misspelled her final word of the night, “daviely.”
This year’s competition did not lead to a “spell-off” — a process that debuted last year in response to a historic eight-way tie for the title in 2019. The spell-off, which would have taken place this year if no champion was named by the one-hour and 55-minute mark of the bee, gives each contestant 90 seconds to spell a series of words.