“Fartlek?” Wang asked as he was given the floor, wondering what word category they were in now.
“We’ve moved to NSFB,” said one of the judges.
“Like NSFW,” added another. “The words sound a little dirty, not safe for spelling.”
It’s a Swedish word, and it meant, as the first judge said, “Endurance training in which a runner alternates periods of sprinting with periods of jogging.”
Wang had stiff competition. Behind Pappas, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was expected to be a tough competitor Wednesday. He won the bee in 2015, “and even got a congratulatory note from President Obama,” National Press Club President Jen Judson said in her introduction, noting that Beyer was the politician and more experienced speller who competed in the bee. And after the first round, Beyer was riding high.
“Yes, I spelled ‘FUBAR’ correctly and no, I didn’t have to ask for a definition,” he tweeted.
But for the second time in his spelling career, Beyer finally landed on a Mexican food word. In 2016, it was “jicama” that got him. This time it was “asadero” – “and I’ll never misspell it again!” he swore
Four Democrats and one Republican competed, among them Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), vs. reporters from the Associated Press, Politico, CQ Roll Call, NPR and The Post’s Martine Powers. Proceeds went to the club’s press freedom initiative, which includes efforts to free Austin Tice, the journalist who has been held captive in Syria for a decade.
The National Press Club revived the spelling in 2013 on its 100th anniversary. (President Woodrow Wilson attended the first bee in 1913.) In the six years since then, excluding 2020 and 2021, politicians and journalists have won three times, which means the tiebreaker for reporters Wednesday night’s win officially makes them better spellers than politicians.
Wang and Pappas went head-to-head through several rounds, each managing to survive by spelling several extremely challenging dog breeds.
Pappas: “Bichon Frize”.
Wang got “milquetoast” and Pappas got “haboob.”
But after a long period of perfection, they both stumbled upon other NSFBs words: Wang to “shittah”, Pappas to “whangdoodle”. It was Pappas’ second mistake of the night, leaving Wang with the last spelling standing, and “fartlek” as, technically, the championship word.