Poway Student Wins Spelling Bee Two Years in a Row
Photo credit Nel Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune
In an impressive back-to-back win, Mihir Konkapaka, a 7th grade student at Mesa Verde Middle School in Poway Unified School District, returned for the second year to take the title of champion at the 53rd annual San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee.
Mihir battled through 13 rounds and the final eight were just him and his toughest competitor from 2022, who also returned to the competition this year. Jedd Li, an 8th grade student at Francis Parker School, went head-to-head with Mihir, both showing their high level of preparation for the competition.
In the end, Mihir correctly spelled “exsufflation,” a word from Latin meaning “forcible breathing or blowing out (as in clearing the respiratory tract).” Now, for a second time, Mihir will go on to represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I’m excited because the words were really intense and there was no way I could prepare for that,” Mihir said. When accepting his trophy, Mihir thanked his school librarian and teacher for helping him in the run-up to the bee.
The Countywide Spelling Bee was held in person for the first time since 2019 and featured all the nervous excitement and pride people have come to love from the spelling bee. Seventy-six students from grades six to eight attending public and independent schools throughout San Diego County participated.
“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 Dr. 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.”
Round one started off with 76 spellers and a high level of difficulty in the words presented. The number of competitors quickly dwindled to just 30 spellers in the second round and 10 in the third round.
For the second year in a row, Jedd Li will serve as an alternate should Mihir be unable to compete in the national bee.
San Diego County has a history of making a strong showing at the national level. In 2012, the local winner, Francis Parker School student Snigdha Nandipati, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In 2005, Anurag Kashyap, a student from Poway, won the national competition.
To prepare, spellers studied the 2023 School Spelling Bee Study List, the Words of the Champions, and the Word Club app to learn about word meanings. All these resources were provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee is held in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education and presented by San Diego County Credit Union. The spelling bee pronouncer this year was Walter Ritter, executive director of Write Out Loud, an organization that seeks to inspire, challenge and entertain by reading literature aloud to audiences of all ages.
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