All eight received the full winner’s freight of $50,000 in cash and a new, custom-designed trophy, because Scripps simply could not come up with words difficult enough to challenge them.
There was plenty of concern after the bee ended in ties three years in a row, from 2014-2016, that the very best spellers might be too good for the bee. Scripps came up with a written tiebreaker test of both spelling and vocabulary, a solution no one was thrilled about. After two years in which the test wasn’t needed, bee officials decided it was too burdensome on the spellers and got rid of it.
The rules going into this year’s bee called for, at most, three co-champions. A contingency plan for even more winners was developed on the fly Thursday afternoon, after bee officials evaluated spellers’ performance in the early final rounds. It took 5½ hours to narrow the field from 50 kids to 16.