Texas Teen Wins National Spelling Bee’s First-Ever Lightning Round Tiebreaker

Last Thursday, 14-year-old Harini Logan made history by winning the first-ever lightning-round tiebreaker at the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee

In the spell-off, which was a format that tested the participants on how many words they could accurately spell within 90 seconds, Harini competed against the Aurora spelling virtuoso Vikram Raju. She was awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.

13-year-old Vihaan Sibal from McGregor, Texas, finished third and has another year of eligibility. Saharsh Vuppala, 13, from Bellevue, Washington, placed fourth.

The winning word was “moorhen,” which means red grouse female, according to Scripps. It was first announced by the judges that Harini had 21 words, but following a video review, she was given credit for one additional word.

She had prepared for a lightning round for months, admitting she was terrified when it was introduced last year, Harini said during an interview, “I go slow. That’s my thing. I didn’t know how I would fare in that setting.”

Prior to achieving her current victory, Harini competed in the last fully in-person bee three years ago and endured the pandemic to make it back. 

During the Scripps National Spelling Bee, she was eliminated at the much-debated multiple-choice vocabulary round, then reinstated. She misspelled four times in the last stretch, as did Vikram Raju. This makes Harini the first-ever Scripps champion to be reinstated during the competition.

Harini is Indian-American, continuing a pattern of South Asian winners over the last two decades. She’s the fifth Scripps champion coached by Grace Walters, a former speller and Rice University alumni.