From the Archives: Trash Talking Contestants Roil 87th Annual Spelling Bee


Ansun Sujoe and Sriram HathwarKavya Shivashankar refuse to let trash talking stop them from sharing the top prize in the 87th Annual Scripps Spelling Bee

WASHINGTON, DC (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) – Controversy clouded the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee that ended in a tie between thirteen-year old Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas and  fourteen-year old Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, N.Y., each taking home the $30,000 grand prize. Nancy Tretter, the Bee’s security coordinator, described the ugly scene that unfolded just before the remaining contestants were to enter the Grand Hyatt’s Independence Ballroom for the final round.

“With fifteen minutes to go, the finalists were milling around a conference room opposite the main ballroom. The atmosphere is very tense, the kids are jumpy, their parents are on edge. Per standard operating procedure we had security at each point of egress (n, an exit). In years past it’s usually the parents you need to keep an eye on. Occasionally you’ll get a couple of kids who lose it as the clock winds down. But this was the first time we had to physically pry kids apart as the trash talking just got completely out of control.”

After the Bee, Rick Toms, 14, of Tempe, Ariz., who stumbled on “girolle” (a kind of mushroom), lambasted the trash talkers he claimed threw him off his “game.”

“It was unconscionable. I was sitting in the corner speaking with my parents, when suddenly one of the contestants – who will go nameless – got up in my grill and called me a dickhead. What prompted this I don’t know, but when someone applies an agnomen to my given name – like dickhead, four-eyes, stink-breath – I just lose it.” (Agnomen, n, an additional name or epithet.)

Samantha Robinson, 12, of Spokane, Washington, competing for the fourth time, misspelled “zacate” (a grassy plant). After the event, Samantha lashed out at unsportsmanlike behavior of the trash talkers. “Suddenly it felt like the room was teeming with the verbal equivalent of mind-altering aeroplankton. I don’t want to make excuses, but it was hard to hear oneself cerebrate, let alone think.” (Aeroplankton, n, .small airborne organisms.)

The usually quiet and reserved 13-year-old Samir Kohli of Oceanside, NY, a finalist who stumbled on the word “assface,” became uncharacteristically “idiomatic” when confronted by a trash talking contestant just moments before they were to take the stage for the final round. “I said, ‘get out my face, mo-fo, ‘fore I shove a brand spanking new fauchard up yo butt. I was pissed.” (Fauchard, n, a long handled weapon.)

Tretter vows to tighten security for next year’s event to prevent a similar effusion of incendiary verbiage. “It’s a challenge, since most of the people we hire for security purposes don’t have the vocabulary to identify a word meant to injure from one that’s completely innocuous – by the way, is that spelled with two n’s or one?”




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