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Kansas City spelling bee finally ends

Kush Sharma, center, reacts after spelling “definition” to win the Jackson County Spelling Bee on Saturday. Sophia Hoffman, right, lost on “stifling.” The bee was halted last month after they went 47 rounds.
Kush Sharma, center, reacts after spelling “definition” to win the Jackson County Spelling Bee on Saturday. Sophia Hoffman, right, lost on “stifling.” The bee was halted last month after they went 47 rounds.
Published Mar. 9, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — 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."

For more than an hour, seventh-grader Kush Sharma of Kansas City and fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman of Lee's Summit 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.

But at the end of the 28th round on Saturday, Sophia appeared puzzled when attempting to spell "stifling," and even more so when the bell rang to indicate she had gotten it wrong.

That meant Kush could claim the title if he correctly spelled his word, "definition," in the 29th round. He did and won the bee and a trip to the National Spelling Bee in Washington in May.

"I was pretty sad when she got that word incorrect," Kush said, noting that he and Sophia had become friends.

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