Pacific Trails Middle School student Yash Hande correctly spelled "sphacelated" to win the 48th annual San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee.
"Sphacelated," which means affected by, characterized by, or likened to gangrene continues the theme of winning words that would make any middle schooler cringe. "Phlegm" was the winning 2016 word.
Eighth-grader Hande will now go on to represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md., in May.
There was the buzz of excitement in the air as only three spellers remained in round five at about 12:45 p.m., nearly fours hours into the competition and after 93 other students "spelled out."
In addition to Hande, the spellers were Andrew Gao, a 7th-grader at Carmel Valley Middle School in San Dieguito Union High School District, and Luigi Gono, an 8th-grade student at Granger Junior High School in Sweetwater Union High School District. The winning speller must win the round and spell the final championship word correctly.
Hande missed his word in the fifth round, but Gono got tripped up by the would-be championship word. Hande won the following round when he correctly spelled "blucher," a type of shoe. He won the competition by then spelling the championship word, "sphacelated," correctly.
Round one started off relatively easy with words such as "shampoo," "humble," and "interrupt." But it quickly became more difficult for spellers, with half spelling out in the first and second rounds. The third round introduced words that were not provided to the students to study in advance, including "splacknuck," meaning odd animal, and "sondage," meaning a sounding of the earth as by boring or digging.
This was the first year that 6th grade students were included in the competition. There were eight students in 6th grade who advanced to the countywide level of competition after winning their school-level competition.
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, and in 2005, Anurag Kashyap, a student from Poway, won the national competition.
"The Spelling Bee is a time-honored academic competitions that I'm glad is still practiced and applauded today," said Nicole Shina, spelling bee coordinator for the County Office. "It's a great reminder that spelling is important, even in a world where texting and tweeting is so popular."
San Diego County Board of Education President Rick Shea and new member Paulette Donnellon were both in attendance to wish the spellers well.
The 48th annual San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee was presented by San Diego County Credit Union in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education, 10News, San Diego Hall of Champions, and Southwest Airlines.