Oxon Hill, Maryland: The National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for a second straight year on Thursday night when two Indian-Americans, Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam, were named co-champions.

The bee hadn’t ended in a tie for 52 years until 2014. Now it’s happened for an unprecedented two years running. Ms. Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Kansas, is the first sibling of a past champion to win. Her sister, Kavya, won in 2009.

Ms. Vanya Shivashankar’s final word was “scherenschnitte,” which means the art of cutting paper into decorative designs. After being informed he’d be the co-champion if he got the next word right, Mr. Venkatachalam didn’t even bother to ask the definition before spelling “nunatak.” For the record, it means a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice.

Asked what he thought when he got the word, Mr. Venkatachalam said, “Me and Vanya were going to be the champions.”

Mr. Venkatachalam, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri, finished third in 2014, behind the two co-champions. He had a gruff on-stage demeanour, asking about the word’s roots and definition before chugging through the letters as if he had dinner plans.

“I wasn’t nervous,” said Mr. Venkatachalam, a LeBron James fan who said his priority for after the bee was watching the NBA finals.

Both are eighth-graders, so it was their last chance. Ms. Vanya Shivashankar was competing in the bee for the fifth and final time. Her sister, Ms. Kavya Shivashankar, now a sophomore at Columbia University competed four times, which means the Shivashankar family has made the trip nine of the past 10 years. Ms. Vanya Shivashankar, who also acts and plays the tuba and piano, dedicated her victory to her grandmother.

“Everything takes hard work and passion,” Ms. Vanya Shivashankar said. “That’s definitely what I put in and I know Gokul put that into this endeavour as well.”

Proving their superiority over even their toughest competitors, Ms. Vanya Shivashankar and Mr. Venkatachalam went head-to-head for 10 rounds before the list of 25 championship words was exhausted.

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