Spelling Bee Co-champion gets homecoming "Spellebration"

By Tyler Race
By Kelly McCarthy

June 12, 2014 Updated Jun 12, 2014 at 6:41 PM EDT

Corning, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For the first time in 52 years, America has two National Spelling Bee champions, and one of them lives in the Southern Tier in Steuben County.

When Painted Post native Sriram Hathwar was 8-years-old he was the youngest to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, now at 14, he's champion.

"When I brought the trophy back home," Hathwar said, "It was for everyone."

Now home from his victory tour across the nation, his local Corning Rotary Club greeted him with a "spellebration."

"All through, you know when it was televised on ESPN, we heard 'he's the favorite, he's the favorite,'" said Regional Spelling Bee Coordinator Deborah Joseph, "So I know it was tons of pressure for him. But we all knew that he had this in him."

Hathwar became co-champion after there were no more words on the competition's list for them to spell.

During the National Spelling Bee on May 29, Hathwar smiled as his opponent spelled his final word correctly, showing what others describe as Hathwar's positive and inspirational attitude.

"He's got so much poise, he's such a gentleman that it's a pleasure to watch him," Joseph said. " I think the other kids take inspiration from him because he's just so positive. He works darn hard."

Hathwar's strategy in the competition included imagining he was having a conversation each time he was given a word.

"I really just tried to tune out everyone else and pretend that we were having a conversation when I was receiving a word," Hathwar said.

Hathwar's friends, family, teachers and members of the Rotary Club were in attendance during the ceremony.

Along with co-winning the competition, Hathwar was awarded with more than $30,000 in cash and scholarships.

This is also just the fourth time in the 89-year history of the competition which there are co-champions.