Can you spell "marathon"? Two breaks, two appeals, and 74 nerve-wracking rounds, so officials decided they had to eliminate the spell off. The pronouncer was running out of words and the contestants were running on fumes, so they had to call a rematch.
The stage was filled with champion spellers and the audience was packed with family and friends. But after 74 grueling rounds and more than 3.5 hours, then there were two.
"It was amazing, just to think that both of us were able to go on that long, you know with the pressure and the eventual fatigue," said Keith Mokry, 14.
"It was tiring and I was nervous," said Matthew Rogers, 13.
Rogers and Mokry were facing off in the marathon battle. And it looked like Mokry would a have a chance to win it when Rogers misspelled a word in round 71.
But then the judges decided the pronouncer never gave the correct pronunciation of the word "punctilio", which means a minor adjustment. But despite an empty stomach and exhaustion, the two wanted to keep going.
"I was really confident going in," said Rogers.
"I figured, you know, we could go to round 100," said Mokry.
So how do these evenly-matched competitors prepare for the so-called rematch?
"A few years ago my brother made the national spelling bee in DC, and so we accumulated a lot of words and lists, so I usually study those," said Rogers.
"I actually have a whole notebook of all of the words, all of their etymologies, all of their pronunciations," said Mokry.
Just as a reference, last year this same competition went only 14 rounds before a winner was determined.
Parents agree that both young men deserve to go to the national spelling bee after the odyssey over the weekend.
The rematch is scheduled for March 8 at 10 a.m. at the DeKalb Regional Office.