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 County Spelling Bee Champion Crowned

Christian Antonio, a 7th grader at Santa Sophia Academy in Spring Valley, became the champion of 51st annual The San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee today by correctly spelling the word "huipil," a garment worn in Mexico and Central America. He will go on to represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"I want to thank my family for supporting me and my school for supporting me," he said after the event. "I'm glad my hard work paid off."

The Countywide Spelling Bee was virtual this year to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but being digital didn't damper the nervous excitement. Nearly 40 students from grades 6 to 8 from public and independent schools throughout San Diego County participated.

"The Spelling Bee is a time-honored academic competition that I'm glad is still practiced and applauded today," said Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools. "It's another important opportunity for students to connect with school and excel in their education, giving them the chance to set goals, dedicate time to studying, and gain experience in public speaking." 

Round one started off with 37 spellers and relatively easy words. But it quickly became more difficult for the competitors as they spelled their way through 13 challenging rounds.

There was one other speller in the final round with Antonio. Aron Ekubaselase from Preuss School is an alternate should Antonio 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, and in 2005, Anurag Kashyap, a student from Poway, won the national competition, which is being held in July in Florida.

To prepare, spellers studied Words of the Champions, the 4,000-word study resource provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Countywide Spelling Bee was presented by San Diego County Credit Union in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education, The Union Tribune, and 10News. The spelling bee master this year was writer and broadcaster Charles Harrington Elster.

Photo credit: Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune