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Twin Peaks Middle School 8th grader wins 2024 San Diego County Regional Spelling Bee

Benjamin Evans San Diego County Spelling Bee winner
Posted at 7:22 AM, Mar 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-15 11:29:28-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - An eighth grader from Twin Peaks Middle School has won the 2024 San Diego County Scripps Regional Spelling Bee after going head-to-head with a fellow Poway Unified School District student in the final rounds of the competition.

Benjamin Evans successfully spelled "epihippus," an extinct genus of the modern horse family, to secure his victory in the 19th round.

Evans bested Mesa Verde Middle School student Mihir Konkapaka, the defending back-to-back regional champion. They were the final spellers left entering round 12.

Evans will represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. area in late May.

“I can’t believe what’s happening. I worked so hard for this," Evans said after the win. "Now, I guess I've got to go study some more."

The regional competition at the Jackie Robinson YMCA started out with 84 spellers. Judges presented competitors with relatively easy words at the beginning, but by round three, the difficulty was cranked up a notch.
Fewer than half of the students were still competing at that point.

According to the San Diego County Office of Education, students have represented the area well on the national stage. In 2012, our regional champion, Snigdha Nandipati, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In 2005, Anurag Kashyap, another student from Poway, won the national bee.

Below, you'll find a City News Service story previewing the San Diego County Regional Spelling Bee.

The 2024 San Diego County Scripps Regional Spelling Bee will begin at the Jackie Robinson YMCA Thursday, with more than 80 students from grades six to eight competing to represent the county at the National Spelling Bee.

The winner will represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the Washington, D.C. area in late May, with semifinals and finals in June. You can find a copy of the event program here.

Walter Ritter, executive director of Write Out Loud, will be the official word pronouncer for the event.

In 2023, Mihir Konkapaka won the spelling bee for the second consecutive year winning by correctly spelling exsufflation, a word meaning "forcible breathing or blowing out (as in clearing the respiratory tract)."

"I'm excited because the words were really intense and there was no way I could prepare for that," the seventh grader from Mesa Verde Middle School in the Poway Unified School District said.

When accepting the trophy, Mihir thanked his school librarian and teacher for helping him in his preparation for the bee.

Jedd Li, an eighth grader at Francis Parker School, finished second for the second consecutive year.

In May 2023, Mihir was eliminated in the fourth round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He misspelled chessel, a cheese vat, spelling it chestle.

Mihir was the 10th speller in the round and the sixth to misspell his or her word.

The original field consisted of 231 spellers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, the Bahamas, Germany and Ghana. There were 59 spellers eliminated in the first round, 33 in the second and 19 in the third, reducing the field to 121 for the fourth round.

Dev Shah of Largo, Florida, won the 2023 bee upon correctly spelling the word psammophile -- a plant or animal that thrives in sandy environs -- after Charlotte Walsh of Merrifield, Virginia spelled daviely -- a Scottish word meaning listlessly -- incorrectly.

Mihir reached the third round of the 2022 national bee. Two San Diego County spellers have won the national bee -- Anurag Kashyap in 2005 and Snigdha Nandipati in 2012.

"The Spelling Bee is a time-honored academic competition that any student can participate in to connect with school and develop skills that will help them in the future," said Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools. "Students learn to set goals, dedicate time to studying and gain experience in public speaking, all of which are useful in college, career and life."

The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, giving Mihir one more opportunity to compete.

Copyright 2024, City News Service, Inc.