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Kansas City-area spelling bee finally ends

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A marathon spelling bee between two Kansas City-area students who exhausted the initial word list last month ended after 29 more rounds Saturday when the eventual runner-up stumbled over the word "stifling."

Marathon Spelling Bee Finally Sees A Winner After 76 Rounds

For more than an hour, seventh-grader Kush Sharma and fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman went toe-to-toe in the continuation of the Jackson County Spelling Bee, which began two weeks ago but had to be extended after the two breezed through the word list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee, then 20 more words picked out of the dictionary.

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.

Following a lengthy break to listen to audio of the round to make sure Sophia had heard the word correctly, the judges ruled that she had misspelled it, meaning Kush could claim the title if he correctly spelled his word in the 29th round.

After being given his final word, "definition," Kush drew chuckles from spectators watching from a different room in the Kansas City Public Library when he asked for the definition. He promptly spelled it correctly and won the bee.

The end of the match brought to a close a whirlwind two weeks for Kush, a student at Frontier School of Innovation in Kansas City, and Sophia, a Highland Park Elementary School student in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit.

Three days after they finished in a tie on Feb. 22, both of their families were flown to New York to make appearances on CNN and "Good Morning America." The two said they had become close friends because of the experience.

"I was pretty sad when she got that word incorrect," said Kush, who now moves on to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. "That's the game, you know? It's going to come down to one person, whether you're friends or not."

Sophia said she was excited that she made it so far in the bee and that she planned to compete again next year. Kush said he, too, would be back, and he wouldn't be surprised if the two dueled even longer next year.

Mark Hoffman, Sophia's father, called his daughter a tough kid who gained a lot from the competition despite the emotionally upsetting conclusion.

"I think it is part of the growth of the kids to learn how to work through disappointment and come out stronger," he said.

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AOL9.7 March 09 2014 at 3:05 PM

Ah, the dedication to learn.....

All entrants are to be commended, how I admire their role models.

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AOL9.7 March 09 2014 at 12:31 AM

So very proud these kiddos like education.
I am in awe.
Bet the judges never run out of words again.

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photocountry March 09 2014 at 12:15 AM

She can be proud that she came in 2nd. Think of how many other's that she knocked off! :)

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grasshopper1809 March 09 2014 at 3:43 AM

con-grads to those kids. such an inspiration seeing our "young ones"taking advantage of and pursuing their education.

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hbf24 March 09 2014 at 8:32 AM

Really wonderful with two brilliant and very warm and intelligent children!!!

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frozenbull March 08 2014 at 6:39 PM

Boy , these kids always amaze me . Guess the "spell check" on their laptops are a little rusty .

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1 reply
David frozenbull March 09 2014 at 12:21 AM

CAREFUL there, buddy - you'd probably hear a cybernetic-like voice saying "Me? Rusty? NEVER!"

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hmark13 March 08 2014 at 6:10 PM

It is nice to see both students and their families being gracious during and after the battle of words. There were no little league tantrums form anyone.

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we3behappy1s March 08 2014 at 3:41 PM

After all that she missed the simple word "stifling"? They both must have been tired after the long competition. I bet each memorized the entire dictionary...seriously I think they did. Congratulations to both.

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2 replies
rcpaf83 we3behappy1s March 08 2014 at 3:55 PM

They are given a long list of words that will be used for the spelling bee.... It's not what you have always thought it was... Then they can study the words for a coupke of weeks before the "contest" begins... The one who spells the most correctly wins... BUT, they know what words they will be asked to spell - - words off the list !!! This is why they couldn't continue the contest once they had spelled all the previous words... They had to given a new list..... It's kind of a scam like most things in our "new" educational system .....

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1 reply
littiechief rcpaf83 March 08 2014 at 4:46 PM

And the extra words they pulled out of a dictionary in the initial competition? Not all the words were listed to practice beforehand....IF they are, in fact, given the list.

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wlh1923 we3behappy1s March 08 2014 at 4:28 PM

Stifling? Probably spelled it with two f's

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1 reply
imran4692 wlh1923 March 08 2014 at 5:19 PM

someone got stiffed lol

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tucsonbass March 09 2014 at 10:51 AM

Both children and their parents should be proud. As stated in the article, part of the maturation process is winning and losing and a well rounded upbringing includes both. It makes each a better person in the long run.

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lkemer March 08 2014 at 3:26 PM

Congrats to both of these extraordinary students. They are on a lifetime path to a successful career.

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