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 Notre Dame Academy Student Wins Countywide Spelling Champ Title

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Ella Peters to Represent San Diego County at Scripps National Spelling Bee in May

There's a new way to spell "champion" today after Notre Dame Academy 7th-grader Ella Peters cleared her throat, let out some nervous laughter, and spelled "phlegm" to win the 47th annual San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee.

The 13-year-old Carmel Valley speller stayed strong through 12 rounds, not including a few final-champion one-offs that ended in a misspelled word. Second place went to Jeremiah Saguin of Calavera Hills Middle in Carlsbad Unified School District.

Ella will go on to represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md., in May.

After nearly four hours, the 103 spellers were whittled down to six spellers, including Bennett Hochner of Aviara Oaks Middle in Carlsbad Unified School District; Spencer Tuchscher-Hart of Francis Parker; Nina Elefsen of James E. Potter Jr. High in Fallbrook Union Elementary ​School District; and Roger Reinhardt of Language Academy in San Diego Unified School District.

There was the buzz of anticipation and tension as the six squared off for four rounds spelling increasingly challenging words. Then, the competition narrowed to just Ella and Jeremiah, until according to the Bee's rules for later rounds, she correctly spelled two words in a row.

San Diego County has a history of having a strong showing at the national level. In 2005, Anurag Kashyap, a student from Poway, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The local winner in 2012, Francis Parker School student Snigdha Nandipati also won the national championship.

 "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."

The Countywide Spelling Bee is a San Diego Union-Tribune event presented by the San Diego County Credit Union in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education, ABC 10News, San Diego Hall of Champions, and Southwest Airlines.​