For the second straight year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee will undergo a series of changes, designed to avoid having the Bee end in a tie.
In 2016, the Scripps National Spelling Bee produced co-champions for the third straight year, despite rules aimed at preventing a tie. But the new rules did take a toll on the champions, as both spellers missed several words during the 25 championship rounds.
This year, if at least two spellers go all 25 championship rounds without a single champion, the Bee will go to a test administered to finalists during the evening of the Bee. The exam will consist of 12 spelling words, and 12 multiple choice vocabulary words.
The speller with the best score wins. The exam will only be used as a tiebreaker if two or three spellers are tied after 25 championship rounds.
Of course there is still a potential for a tie after the exam, but adding another layer to the Bee makes it less likely that the Bee produces co-champions.
Fifth-grader Nihar Janga and seventh-grader Jairam Hathwar didn't mind sharing the trophy in 2016.
The two self-described friends were more than happy to share the experience of being co-champs with each other.
"I know (Jairam) and he is one of my best spelling friends so I was really happy for him," Nihar said. "I wanted to win but at the same time I felt bad for Jairam. I wanted Jairam to win."
"We've both emailed each other and keep in touch and we've gotten to become close friends," Jairam said.
The 2016 Bee was the first to implement an extended 25-round between the final three spellers. Once it was down to Jairam and Nihar, the two were locked in a duel, alternating spots at the microphone before pronouncer Jacques Bailly.
"It was an old-fashioned spelling bee," Bailly, a former Bee champion, said following the 2016 event.
The 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee is set for May 30 through June 1, with final rounds being televised on June 1 on ESPN and ESPN 2.
The Bee kicks off on May 30 with a preliminary exam administered to all 289 finalists. On May 31, spellers will appear on stage for two rounds of spelling. Once both rounds are concluded, the field of finalists will be whittled to a group of roughly 50.
On June 1, the field will continue to whittle until there is just one, or perhaps two or three, spellers.