Bruhat Soma, 12, wins US national spelling bee in a spell-off

Bruhat Soma from Florida wins the Scripps National Spelling Bee over Faizan Zaki, from Texas, in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., May 30, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Bruhat Soma, a 12-year-old from Tampa, Florida, won the 96th Scripps National Spelling Bee in a spell-off on Thursday, correctly spelling 29 words in 90 seconds including some of the most obscure, complex and downright tricky words in the English language.

With two finalists standing as time ran out, the annual competition went to a spell-off, a rapid-elimination method introduced in 2021, for just the second time.

Bruhat advanced to the spell-off by correctly spelling “Hoofddorp,” a town near Amsterdam.

That put him head-to-head with Faizan Zaki, a 12-year-old from Allen, Texas, who nailed “nicuri,” a word derived from a Brazilian palm, without asking any questions about its origin or definition.

Bruhat then raced through a list of words in the spell-off, getting 29 before time ran out. Faizan correctly spelled 20 words from the same list in his 90 seconds.

scripps national spelling bee
Faizan Zaki from Texas celebrates spelling a word correctly during the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., May 30, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

That gave the prestigious trophy and $50,000 prize to Bruhat, a basketball fan who was shown shooting hoops in a recorded segment earlier in the televised event.

Thursday’s eight finalists came from regional competitions that narrowed the field to 245 local winners, ages 8 to 15, for the final three days of competition at a convention center outside Washington.

Some of the finalists fell victim to such brain-teasers as Lillooet (a people from modern British Columbia), “kanin” (boiled rice in the Philippines) and “murrina” (a horse disease).

Challenged with some of the most difficult and least-used words that English has to offer, many young competitors amazed spectators with their ability to produce the correct spellings with poise and precision.

The Scripps media group has sponsored the event since 1925, with three years off during World War Two and one more for the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Most competitors were from the United States, coming from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Canada, the Bahamas, Germany and Ghana were also represented this year.


Bruhat Soma holds up his trophy as he celebrates with family members after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in National Harbor, U.S., May 30, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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