More than 100 word wizards took the stage at the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park Thursday for the 46th annual UT San Diego Countywide Spelling Bee.
The 7th and 8th grade competitors from schools throughout the county began the spelling showdown at 9:15 a.m. Quickly, the contestants were given words to spell such as "alcove," "tofu" and "layette," as they advanced from round to round.
After several hours of intense competition, Earl Warren Middle School student Oona Flood was named victor.
Flood won by outlasting three other competitors who made it to the final round and correctly spelling the word “fuliginous.”
Aside from serious local buzz, the winner of the spelling bee will also go on to represent San Diego at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.
Thursday's event was hosted by Spelling Bee Master Dr. David Hay, an Adjunct Professor of English/Coordinator of International Faculty Programs at the University of San Diego, who is in his 34th year as Bee Master.
San Diego students have impressed in the past with their spelling skills. In 2012 Francis Parker School student Snigdha Nandipati, then 14 years old, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee with the winning word, “guetapens.”
Nandipati’s big win followed in the footsteps of another star speller from the San Diego area who dominated the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2005. In that competition, Poway student Anurag Kashyap, then 13, won the big bee and later went on to win the “Jeopardy! Teen Tournament.”
This year, Nandipati's younger brother competed in the Countywide Spelling Bee, said Music Watson of the San Diego Office County of Education.
Watson said a total of 103 students hit the spelling stage, with the competition lasting about four hours. She anticipated things would become very exciting as the pool of students was whittled down throughout the day.
She said watching students show off their spelling skills in this era of texting, emoticons and tweeting is something truly special.
“Spelling is the fundamental portion of our language. It’s really important to be able to communicate and to spell well,” said Watson.