Alabama student among historic ‘octo-champion’ national spelling bee winners

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WASHINGTON (WAFF/GRAY DC) -- For the second time in history, an Alabama student is a National Spelling Bee champion. Super-speller Erin Howard also made history Thursday for another reason, she's sharing the victory with seven other students. Alana Austin reports on the ground-breaking news from Maryland.

Alabama students wins 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee (Source: Gray DC)

In a nail-biting finish after over three hours on stage, Alabama student Erin Howard left the Scripps National Spelling Bee a champion.

Huntsville’s Erin Howard brought her A game and became a national spelling bee champion, amid an especially fierce group of competitors this year.

“I really cannot describe how I am feeling right now because I never expected to be a champion,” said Howard. “I am over the moon.”

She wasn’t the only finalist. In a late decision, the judges declared all finalists who lasted into round 20 would be declared a winner. Howard was among the eight winners by correctly spelling “erysipelas." It was about midnight in Washington when she did it.

The 14-year-old spelling champ tackled increasingly difficult words like “deixis,” “meerschaum,” “Komondor,” “zamacueca,” and “jindyworobak.”

Howard was the only one from Alabama.

“I just want to say thank you a million times over because you are the people who have allowed me to experience this moment, so I am forever indebted to you,” said Howard.

Erin’s family -- especially her little sister Laurel, another talented speller -- embraced this sweet victory after the frenzy at the bee’s unbelievable end.

“The thing is through all that she found time to play with me and talk to me and hang out with me,” said Laurel.

Erin and this team of octo-champions will soon be added to the hall of winners in the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

Each of the winners will receive $50,000, a reference library from Merriam-Webster, a trip to New York City, a trip to Hollywood and more.

She is already an old pro at this. This is the fourth year in a row she has made it to the national competition

She finished in the top 10 the previous two years, and was 22nd in 2016.

After all that hubbub, Erin says she hopes to take a little bit of time to unwind by watching TV and having some quiet time. Now that she’s completed her career as a top speller, she will focus on playing trombone and some of her other hobbies.

One day, she says she may pursue a career in genetic research, biology or computer science, but she wants to keep the future open-ended.

She advanced by winning the Alabama Spelling Bee for the fourth year in a row - every year since 2016. This year, she won the Alabama Spelling Bee with the word “cogitation.”

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