Smarty Pants

Clever Texan sets record as youngest National Spelling Bee winner

Clever Texan sets record as youngest National Spelling Bee winner

2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar
Austinite Nihar Janga (left) is the youngest competitor to ever win the National Spelling Bee. Photo courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee
2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee Nihar Janga
Janga mimicked NFL player Dez Bryant after he spelled "gesellschaft" correctly. Photo courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee
2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar
2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee Nihar Janga

A Texas fifth-grader has won the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee — and set the record as the youngest winner. Gifted 11-year-old Nihar Janga was crowned co-champion, alongside 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar of Corning, New York, after an epic battle of 24 head-to-head rounds.

This giant win for Janga follows his advancement from the Houston Public Media Spelling Bee, the second largest bee in the nation. 

In the thrilling finale, Janga correctly spelled the word “gesellschaft,” defined as “a rationally developed mechanistic type of social relationship characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons.” (Yeah, we totally knew that word in fifth grade too.) He mimicked NFL player Dez Bryant by crossing his arms in an “X” formation to celebrate the win, causing laughter in the crowd.

Janga was a popular contestant throughout the spelling bee. He earned the nickname “the Machine” from ESPN commentators for spelling every word perfectly up, until the championship round. (Janga and Hathwar exchanged a few misspellings in the final rounds, which kept them both from going home.) 

Janga, who attends River Ridge Elementary School in Austin's Leander ISD, was also the only participant out of 285 to ace the written test.