OXON HILL-Two young American teenagers of South Asian heritage made spelling history Thursday when they became the first co-winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in more than half a century.

Ansun Sujoe, 13, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, hoisted the glittering gold cup together after they saw off 10 other finalists before taking turns to exhaust the competition's demanding word list. In the nail-biting finale, Hathwar correctly spelled stichomythia, meaning a dialogue of altercation in Greek drama.

Then Sujoe stepped up to the microphone and learned he and Hathwar would be co-champions if he nailed the last word of the night. He did. It was feuilleton, a noun for a newspaper supplement, which he spelled flawlessly despite admitting later that he's sometimes uncomfortable with French-based words.

‘Correct,’ said official pronouncer Jacques Bailly, a classics professor and 1980 bee champion, triggering a shower of confetti and a standing ovation from the ballroom crowd in the Gaylord resort outside Washington. The first joint champions since 1962 will each take home their own trophy cups as well as more than $30,000 in cash prizes, savings bonds and reference works. The boys are also the seventh and eighth youngsters of South Asian heritage since 2008 to conquer the National Spelling Bee, an American institution since the 1920s.

‘I try to study as hard as I can. I try to be true to myself (and) hope for the best,’ Hathwar, who wore a small American and Indian flag button on his white polo shirt as a token of good luck, told AFP. It was his fourth time at the National Spelling Bee, where he placed third last year. He once produced a TEDx talk on his competitive spelling experiences. ‘What do I do next? Get back to normal stuff,’ added Sujoe, sporting a snappy red bow tie. He now expects to start coaching his younger sister so that she can follow in his spelling footsteps.