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 Escondido Student is Crowned San Diego County Spelling Bee Champion

It was down to four students. Two were quickly felled, by “sacerdotal” (“of or relating to priests or a priesthood”) and “brankursine” (“a prickly European herb having rough, fuzzy leaves”). Eventually the third finalist missed “presbytery,” and Giabao Tonthat, a student at Heritage K-8 Charter in Escondido was one word away from being the San Diego County Spelling Bee champion.

“Bonspiel,” said the Bee Master, Dr. David Hay. Hay, in his 32nd year as Bee Master, is an Adjunct Professor of English/Coordinator of International Faculty Programs at the University of San Diego. Tonthat asked for word origin and for the Bee Master to use the word in a sentence before finally beginning to spell.

“B-O-N-S-P-I-E-L,” he said, softly, as the crowd assembled in Balboa Park’s Hall of Champions held its collective breath.

Dr. Hay announced that Tonthat had spelled the word correctly and the audience erupted into cheers.

The 44th Annual U-T San Diego Countywide Spelling Bee began with 107 students, all 7th and 8th graders, and ended with one champion. Tonthat will go on to represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., May 28-30, 2013.

“The Spelling Bee is one of the most time-honored of all academic competitions,” said Nicole Shina, who coordinates the Spelling Bee for the San Diego County Office of Education. “It’s a nice reminder that even in a world where we’re all texting and tweeting, spelling is important.”

San Diego has a history of making a strong showing at the national level. Last year’s U-T San Diego Countywide Spelling Bee champion, Francis Parker School student Snigdha Nandipati, won the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee. San Diego also is home to Anurag Kashyap, the 2005 national champion; Kashyap attended Meadowbrook Middle School in the Poway Unified School District.

Along with U-T San Diego, the 44th Annual Countywide Spelling Bee was co-sponsored by the San Diego County Office of Education, San Diego County Credit Union, iTV Cable 16, San Diego Hall of Champions, and Southwest Airlines. ​