It took 95 rounds and a delay of two weeks — when judges ran out of words in February — but a Missouri county finally has its spelling bee champion after the two finalists broke a tie Saturday.
Fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman and seventh-grader Kush Sharma became celebrities after they literally exhausted the Jackson County Spelling Bee of words on February 22. At that competition, they lasted 66 rounds before organizers said they needed time to gather more words.
On Saturday, the pair dueled for another 29 more rounds in a special spell-off held before an overflow crowd in the Kansas City Public Library. In the end, Sharma prevailed, after Hoffman spelled "stifling" incorrectly, according to the Kansas City Star. Sharma took the win by spelling "definition."
The contestants had no problem correctly spelling words like "boodle" and "slobber," often asking the moderator for a word's origin, definition or part of speech.
But at the end of the 28th round, Sophia appeared puzzled when attempting to spell "stifling," and even more so when the bell rang to indicate she had gotten it wrong.
This meant Kush could claim the title if he correctly spelled his word in the 29th round.
After being given his final word, "definition," Sharma drew chuckles from spectators watching from a different room in the library when he asked for the definition.
The 13-year-old promptly spelled it correctly and won the bee — earning a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Following the 66-round war of words between the middle-schoolers last month, the judges came on Saturday prepared with 230 approved words and 100 back-ups.
"We didn’t want to run out of words this time," event co-chair Mary Olive Thompson told NBC News.
That's the definition of preparedness.