How do you spell a spelling bee that goes 66 rounds in more than four hours and causes the organizers to run out of words?
The answer is T-I-E, for now.
Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader at Highland Park Elementary School in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, and Kush Sharma, a seventh-grader at Frontier School of Innovation in Kansas City, will face-off again next month after the two left organizers of the Jackson County Spelling Bee flummoxed.
"We have a list that was provided by Scripps and we got to the end of that list of words and we had pre-selected words from the dictionary just in case and we got through that list," Mary Olive Thompson, a library outreach manager and co-coordinator of the spelling bee, told GoodMorningAmerica.com.
"We had gone four hours and officials prefer to have a pre-selected list rather than just picking words from dictionary so we decided to continue on March 8 and that would allow us to pick more words," she said.
Sophia and Kush began the spelling bee Saturday morning with 23 other competitors. By 11 a.m. and 20 rounds in, when organizers expected the competition to be wrapping up, the two were the only ones left standing.
For the next 46 rounds, Sophia and Kush went word-for-word, literally, until organizers pulled the plug.
"I think they were impressed with themselves too," said Thompson. "They were smiling and seem pleased like, 'They've had to pull out the dictionary for us.'"
Despite the high stakes - the pair are competing for a ticket to Washington, D.C. in May for the Scripps National Spelling Bee - and the cutthroat competition of spelling bees portrayed in movies, Thompson says Sophia and Kush were rooting each other on and keeping the energy of the dwindling crowd going strong.
"They were saying 'good job' and giving each other high fives," she said. "I've done the spelling bee for three years and what warms my heart every year is the support that the spellers have for each other."
The spell-off will be held on March 8, according to Thompson.
The format will again be rounds, with each speller getting one word per round. If the word is misspelled, the other speller will have to spell an additional word correctly. If that word is misspelled, then they start over with another round.
The winner will be named the Jackson County Spelling Bee champ.