12-Year-Old from Florida Wins National Spelling Bee After Getting 29 Words Correct in 90-Second Tiebreaker

Bruhat Soma was named the winner of the prestigious spelling competition; his winning word was 'abseil'

<p>Anna Moneymaker/Getty</p> From Left: Bruhat Soma and Scripps CEO Adam Symson

Anna Moneymaker/Getty

From Left: Bruhat Soma and Scripps CEO Adam Symson

A 12-year-old boy from Florida has won the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee after correctly spelling nearly 29 words in 90 seconds.

Seventh grader Bruhat Soma of St. Petersburg, Fla. was named the winner of the prestigious spelling competition on Thursday, May 30. During the event, which took place in Oxon Hill, Md., Soma beat runner-up Faizan Zaki, a sixth grader from Dallas. The two faced off in a lightning round tiebreaker match — before the pair could even compete against each other in a conventional round.

According to the Associated Press, Soma — one of just eight finalists in the bee, the fewest number of competitors in the final round in 14 years — finished the round with 29 words spelled correctly. Meanwhile, Zaki attempted 25 words and missed four of them. The Scripps organization announced that Soma's winning word was "abseil," meaning "a descent in mountaineering by means of a rope looped over a projection above."

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The 12-year-old's charities of choice to represent were the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund, and he will take home over $50,000 in prizes and cash, the AP reported.

According to Scripps, the prizes for the first-place winner include a $50,000 cash prize from the organization, a $2,500 cash prize and reference library from Merriam-Webster (where the bee pulls its collection of words) and $400 worth of reference works from Encyclopædia Britannica.

"I'm still shaking," Soma said with a grin after being crowned as the winner. In a video shared by Scripps to social media, the seventh grader could be smiling as he hoisted the trophy above his head and confetti fell from the top of the stage.

According to Soma's biography, this year's spelling bee marks his second-ever spell-off. He previously competed in 2022, tying for 163rd place, and 2023, where he tied for 74th place.

"I've been working really hard this whole year," Soma said in an interview with TODAY on Friday, May 31, revealing that he would study spelling for six hours per day on weekdays and over 10 hours per day on weekends.

"After I lost in the quarter finals last year, I was really disappointed and I knew I had to work harder in order to win. So I worked really hard this last year. And then when I won, it was a dream come true," he added. "So I was so happy."

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This year's competition proved increasingly difficult for the young competitors, as this is the third year under the organization's executive director Corrie Loeffler, according to the AP. The bee now sees contestants eliminated extremely quickly after its preliminary rounds.

Per the outlet, the competition began with 148 spellers on Wednesday, May 29. At the end of the first quarterfinal round, there were 59 left, and 46 of those spellers made it through a vocabulary round ahead of the semifinals.

The 2024 competition aired on Ion, from Tuesday, May 28 through Thursday, May 30.

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