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2 Finalists Crowned Champions At Scripps National Spelling Bee

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Last night, 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar and 11-year-old Nihar Janga faced off at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN. The two rattled off letter after letter in tiebreaking championship rounds.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It came down to two words.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAIRAM: Feldenkrais.

MONTAGNE: For Jairam. And for Nihar...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIHAR: Gesellschaft.

GREENE: Not easy, but both of them got the words right which meant they shared the title co-champs. And they sounded a little in shock.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAIRAM: It was just insane. I mean, I don't even know how to put it in words.

NIHAR: I'm just speechless. I can't say anything. I mean, I'm only in fifth grade.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Only in fifth grade and then national champion. It makes you wonder what kind of future he has in store.

MONTAGNE: Well, we reached out to previous spelling bee winners to find out what life became like after their victories.

JOANNA LAGATTA: My name is Joanne Lagatta. I won the National Spelling Bee in 1991. And the winning word was antipyretic. It's something that reduces fever like Tylenol.

MONTAGNE: Lagatta is now a pediatrician in Milwaukee. Little did she know that medical word would have meaning in her adult life.

GREENE: And some spellers get lucky and get a word they already know.

KERRY CLOSE: I'm Kerry Close. I won the National Spelling Bee in 2006. And my winning word was ursprache, which is a German word that means a parent language. And it's spelled U-R-S-P-R-A-C-H-E.

GREENE: Of course it is. Well, she studied hard to get ready to compete.

CLOSE: I decided to go through the entire dictionary and make a list of all the words in there that I didn't know how to spell.

GREENE: And all this has paid off. She is a reporter now for Money magazine.

MONTAGNE: And for some, the talent runs in the family.

BALU NATARAJAN: So I have two boys. My 10-year-old and 7-year-old are actually both interested in spelling. And my older one won his school spelling bee last year and this year as well.

MONTAGNE: That's Chicago-based physician Balu Natarajan who won in the 1980s.

NATARAJAN: The winning word in 1985 was milieu, and it is spelled M-I-L-I-E-U.

MONTAGNE: That's the physical or a social setting in which something occurs, just like this studio during a live show.

GREENE: This studio, S-T-U-D-I-O. Got that one easy.

MONTAGNE: Well done. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.