If there is one venue that is best suited for multiple winners, it is the spelling bee. Both onstage and offstage, spelling kids high-five one another, share study techniques and root for others once they have fallen. They realize that they are not competing against the other participants but against the word lists.
I have met with scores of families, attended multiple spelling competitions and visited the homes of competitive spellers. These are happy, energetic, committed children. The notion that they are forced into this by their parents is a myth. Studying can be a chore, but committed spellers put in hours a day, even in the “off-season” of the summer and fall, because they like it and are motivated. Moreover, it is a social affair, with parents and siblings helping out and dedicating time. Young people study in groups online.
This is not to suggest that Scripps should encourage eight co-champions again. But the most obvious fix — to make the words even harder — is a mistake. Scripps has already tried to weed out co-champions, and seems to now be pulling words from the back pages of Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary. Gradual increases in word difficulty are to be expected, but nothing more.