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They couldn't be rattled. They couldn't be denied. Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar had worked too hard and come close too many times not to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
So they shared the title on Thursday, making history in two different ways.
The bee hadn't ended in a tie for 52 years - until last year. Now it's happened for an unprecedented two years running.
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Tied for the win: Vanya Shivashankar, left, of Olathe, Kansas, and speller Gokul Venkatachalam, right, of St. Louis, Missouri, hold up the trophy after winning the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday
The Beefathers: Mirle, left, the father of Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kan., and Krishnan, the father of Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of St. Louis, sit onstage together
So proud: Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champion Vanya Shivashankar, 13, center, of Olathe, Kan., hugs her father Merl Shivashankar whileGokul Venkatachalam, 14, right, of St. Louis, celebrates
Vanya, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, is the first sibling of a past champion to win. Her sister, Kavya, won in 2009.
Vanya'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, Gokul 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.
'I knew it right away,' he said. 'I didn't want to keep everyone waiting.'
Gokul, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri, finished third last year, behind the two co-champions. He had a gruff onstage demeanor, confirming a word's roots and definition before chugging through the letters as if he had dinner plans.
Underneath his blue-and-white button-down shirt, Gokul wore the jersey of his idol, LeBron James.
'I wasn't nervous,' he said.
Final round: The remaining two spellers Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam compete before learning they would both be the winners of the spelling bee
Under their spell: Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam hoist the winners' trophy after correctly spelling the final words scherenschnitte and nanatuk
On her way: Vanya Shivashankar correctly spells 'consomme' in round five of the semifinals on Thursday before correctly spelling her final word scherenschnitte
Gokul hopes to attend Stanford and become an entrepreneur or stockbroker.
But his immediate priority is to watch the NBA Finals.
While Gokul wowed the crowd with his machinelike efficiency, Vanya has been the darling of the bee since she made her debut as a vivacious 9-year-old in 2010.
Also an actress, she was poised and graceful, smiling and nodding when she got a word she knew instantly - which was nearly every time.
Vanya and Gokul displayed differing spelling styles during the two-hour finals, with Vanya writing out words on her hand. Gokul, whose idol is basketball player Lebron James, kept his head down, eyes sometimes closed and hands at his side.
Other competator: Srinath Mahankali, 11, of New York, N.Y., stands onstage before correctly spelling 'sphenogram' during the semifinals on Thursday
Vanya and Gokul, who attends Parkway West Middle School, were among 10 finalists among the 283 contestants in the Bee, held outside Washington, D.C. The finalists chatted onstage between rounds and exchanged hand slaps when they got a word right.
Unfamiliar foreign words rocked some of them. Given 'hacek,' a Czech word for a pronunciation mark, Siyona Mishra, a sixth-grader from Orlando, Florida, asked, 'Can you say it five times?' before misspelling it.
The top seed coming into the finals was eighth-grader Dev Jaiswal from Louisville, Mississippi, but who finished fifth after missing 'iridoscyclitis,' an eye inflammation.
Guiding her along: Vanya Shivashanka gets a hug from her supportive father, Mirle Shivashankar, before one of the final rounds of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday
Both winners are eighth-graders, so it was their last chance. Vanya was competing in the bee for the fifth and final time.
Her sister, Kavya - now a sophomore at Columbia University - competed four times, which means the Shivashankar family has made the trip nine of the past 10 years.
This year the girls' father stole the show, congratulating her while wearing a shirt that says, 'The Beefather.'
'I'm so, so proud and in awe of my sister,' Kavya said.
Vanya, who also acts and plays the tuba and piano, dedicated her victory to her late grandmother, who died in 2013.
In shock: Ankita Vadiala, 13, reacts as she is given the word 'billable' to spell during the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday
'Everything takes hard work and passion,' Vanya said.
'That's definitely what I put in and I know Gokul put that into this endeavor as well.'
Vanya aspires to be a cardiac surgeon. In the meantime, she hopes to devote more time to acting and persuade her family to take a Caribbean cruise this summer.
'It's definitely going to be weird not doing spelling in high school,' she said.
Proving their superiority over even their toughest competitors, Vanya and Gokul went head-to-head for 10 rounds before the list of 25 championship words was exhausted.
The words included: bouquetière, caudillismo, thamakau, scytale, Bruxellois and pyrrhuloxia. Vanya appeared to struggle only with the Fijian-derived thamaku, which is a type of outrigger canoe.
Sizing up the competition: Vanya Shivashankar talks with competitors during a break in round five before her victory on Thursday
'It was on our list,' said Mirle Shivashankar, Vanya's father and spelling coach.
'But I couldn't remember it.'
Before the bee began, executive director Paige Kimble predicted it would be another 50 years before it ended in a tie. Now she's thinking differently.
'I think it's time to consider that the bee may be entering a new era where the level of competition is so intense that we need to entertain this as a possibility every year,' she said.
The last 10 winners of the bee, and 14 of the past 18, have been Indian-Americans, a run of dominance that began in 1999 with Nupur Lala's victory, which was later featured in the documentary 'Spellbound.'
Vanya and Gokul each will receive more than $37,000 in cash and prizes, and while they held up the trophy together as they were being showered with confetti, each will get one to take home. Fourteen-year-old Cole Shafer-Ray of Norman, Oklahoma, making his first appearance in the finals, finished third.
Family affair: Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champion Vanya Shivashankaris hugged by her sister Kavya, a former spelling champion, while their mother proudly stands to the right