After 11 rounds and about three and a half hours, it came down to one word — “cataclastic.”

Samuel Littrell, an eighth-grader from Kraemer Middle School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, spelled it perfectly on Saturday, Feb. 27, and in doing so was declared the 2016 Orange County Spelling Bee champion.

For the second time in two years, Samuel Littrell from Kraemer Middle School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District is the Orange County Spelling Bee champ. He's pictured here with his sixth-grade teacher, Kristi Cooan, who coached him to his win back in 2014.

For the second time in three years, Samuel Littrell from Kraemer Middle School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District is the Orange County Spelling Bee champ. He’s pictured here with his sixth-grade teacher, Kristi Cooan, who coached him to his win back in 2014.

Samuel, who also won at the county level in 2014, bested 43 other top spellers in grades six, seven and eight in the annual contest sponsored by the Orange County Register at OCDE’s main campus. In addition to taking home a sizable trophy, the middle-schooler will compete in May at the 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., with his travel expenses covered by the Register.

[Update: The Orange County Register has a story on Samuel here.]

Just to earn a bid to the county Spelling Bee was an accomplishment. The students who participated had not only won preliminary contests at their schools, they were among 123 invited to compete in a written contest at OCDE on Feb. 22.

On Saturday, it was down to a select group of 44 spellers, who showcased their skills one round at a time. Students who were eliminated in the same round tied for the same place, meaning there were a handful of second- and third-place finishers.

Second-place honors went to Joyee Chen from Jeffrey Trail Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District, Thu Phan from Irvine Intermediate School in the Garden Grove Unified School District and Jenny Won from Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine Unified. Each earned a trophy and $200.

Third place featured last year’s overall winner, Sarika Rau, of Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine Unified; Natalie Williams from Golden Elementary in Placentia-Yorba Linda; Soham Bose from Lakeside Middle School in Irvine Unified and Hamza Aziz from Orange Crescent School, a private school. They earned trophies and $100 each.

You can find more information on the Orange County Spelling Bee here.