Student Yash Hande secured a place in local history books when he won the 48th annual San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee with the correctly spelled "sphacelated."
The seemingly relaxed middle-schooler went on to represent San Diego County in the 2017 national bee competition where he successfully spelled his two words. He missed becoming a finalist due to his score on the preliminary written test.
Now 14 years old and attending Canyon Crest Academy, Yash has some advice for this year's competitors at the countywide Spelling Bee.
"Definitely go through the school bee lists once again and memorize all of them. Also memorize the Spell It! list, which your school should give you or you can find online. These will be the first two rounds. Otherwise, study the basic main languages like Greek, Latin, French, and Spanish and focus on roots, prefixes, and suffixes," he said.
This year, the countywide Spelling Bee will be held March 15 at the McMillin Companies Event Center at Liberty Station. The competition will be fierce with about 100 spellers expected to attend. It will also be streamed live on ABC 10 News and live-tweeted by @SanDiegoCOE .
These 6th- to 8th-grade spellers won their school competition and are playing for the chance to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a televised event that captures the attention of more than a million viewers.
We asked Yash a few more questions to help future competitors get a better idea of what they can expect.
What did you use to help memorize the words and the word origin?
I made a spreadsheet with all of the words with the language origins and definitions. Then, my family quizzed me on them until I had them perfect.
How did you prepare for the national competition?
I prepared for the national competition by doing various spelling bee lists. I also studied roots and languages.
What life lesson did you take away from the Spelling Bee — something you learned that you use in your life now?
I learned that hard work and effort are the keys to success. Without hard work you won't achieve much. If you put your head to something, and work hard for it, you will always succeed.
What memory sticks out for you most clearly from the countywide bee? What about from the national bee?
At the countywide bee, spelling the winning word and winning the trophy was memorable. At nationals, a memory that stuck out for me was when I searched up a vocabulary word and found out I had gotten it wrong, and if I would had gotten it right, I would have gone to Morning Finals.
Would you do anything differently if you did it all again (county and national)?
I would definitely aim not to rush any words at county and at nationals, I would put a lot more emphasis on vocabulary because vocab ended up knocking me out.
If you're looking for additional words of wisdom from a previous competitor, check out what 2015 countywide bee winner Oona Flood had to say about study tips and good conduct.