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Olathe Teen Becomes National Spelling Bee Co-Champion

Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Missouri, are the co-champions of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee (Image credit: Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)

OXON HILL, Maryland (AP) — The National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for a second straight year Thursday night when two Indian-Americans, Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam, were named co-champions. The bee hadn't ended in a tie for 52 years — until last year. Now it's happened for an unprecedented two years running. The 13-year-old Vanya of Olathe, Kansas is the first sibling of a past champion to win. Her sister, Kavya, won in 2009. Vanya's final word was "scherenschnitte," which means the art of cutting paper into decorative designs. After being informed he'd be the co-champion if he got the next word right, Gokul didn't even bother to ask the definition before spelling "nunatak." For the record, it means a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice. The 14-year-old Gokul of Chesterfield, Missouri, finished third last year, behind the two co-champions. Vanya and Gokul each will receive more than $37,000 in cash and prizes, and while they held up the trophy together as they were being showered with confetti, each will get one to take home. Fourteen-year-old Cole Shafer-Ray of Norman, Oklahoma making his first appearance in the finals, finished third. No one was surprised to see Vanya and Gokul dueling for the title. They came in with high expectations — Vanya, the longtime darling of the bee and Gokul, who last year had the trophy nearly in his grasp. But the tie shocked Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director and the 1981 champion, who predicted last week that another half-century would go by before the bee would crown two winners.


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