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Unprecedented: Spelling Bee competitors were so good they ran out of words

Spelling bee champ stumps Cowboys coach Jason Garrett

11-year-old Nahir Janga of Austin, who famously threw up Dez Bryant's celebratory 'X' during his march to the Scripps National Spelling Bee title, visited Cowboys minicamp on Wednesday and impressed Princeton grad and head coach Jason Garrett with
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11-year-old Nahir Janga of Austin, who famously threw up Dez Bryant's celebratory 'X' during his march to the Scripps National Spelling Bee title, visited Cowboys minicamp on Wednesday and impressed Princeton grad and head coach Jason Garrett with

Unprecedented was not among more than 500 words posed to 24 contestants in Thursday’s 2019 Scripps Regional Spelling Bee, but it is one of the best words to describe it.

As far as anyone connected with the event at TCU can remember, the contest — which went into sudden death overtime after all the words were used up — has never gone that long before.

McLean Middle School eighth-grader Maitri Kovuru prevailed over Bethesda Christian School seventh-grader Hephzibah Sujoe. After 63 rounds — 43 rounds with only the two of them still standing — the girls squared off over a written test.

When judges finished checking the girls’ efforts, Maitri was declared the winner and received a trophy, a check for $200, and a ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, May 26-30.

Hephzibah, who won last year, took home a slightly smaller trophy and $100.

Maitri was “a little overwhelmed” by the experience.

“Not during the bee, but after I found out who won,” said Maitri, 13. “I didn’t expect it and everything happened so fast. I was competing against someone who was really good. I thought she was better than me because she’s been to the nationals before. I didn’t know I was at that level.”

Maitri’s mom, Neena Kovuru, said she and her daughter haven’t had a normal day since they started working on words. And that led to an unexpected benefit — the two spent so much time together that they grew closer than they’ve ever been.

“We haven’t watched TV in months,” Neena Kovuru said. “It became our life.”

And it was worth every moment, Maitri said.

“I guess I just feel proud that I know I have the capacity to do this, to keep going,” she said. “It’s not just a dream. It’s real now. I can do it and I am going to nationals.”

Malin, who is with TCU’s College of Education — which sponsored the bee with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram — said that in her five years helping to coordinate the event it never has gone longer than about 18 rounds. This year, Maitri and Hephzibah were the only two left on the stage at the 20th round.

By the 60th round, Malin said she knew that pronouncer Nick Alexander was running out of words, and she called Scripps to find out what to do. The answer was a list of 25 words that were read to the girls, as they faced off at either end of a table to write their responses.

11-year-old Nahir Janga of Austin, who famously threw up Dez Bryant's celebratory 'X' during his march to the Scripps National Spelling Bee title, visited Cowboys minicamp on Wednesday and impressed Princeton grad and head coach Jason Garrett with

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