The word was “rhesus.”
Only Nicholas D’Sa of St. Cecilia Catholic School in Tustin didn’t have the luxury of reading it.
Nevertheless, the eighth-grader spelled it perfectly on Saturday to clinch the 2019 Orange County Spelling Bee and a trip to the 92nd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.
Travel expenses will be offset by the Orange County Register, which sponsored the contest along with the Orange County Department of Education.
Nicholas told the OCDE Newsroom he was “excited and nervous” at the start of the event.
“I was cheering for everyone and hoped that the best speller won,” he said. “I did not feel any pressure since I believed that my hard work and dedication over the last few months would pay off. The top 10 spellers were all extremely talented, and I just wanted to do my best.”
The 56th annual county bee actually began on Monday, Feb. 25 with a preliminary written round at the OCDE campus, drawing 116 students from public and private schools who had won their school or district-level competitions.
That event narrowed the field to 30 finalists, 29 of whom made it to Saturday’s showdown in the OCDE Board Room.
As the rounds wore on — there were 24 in total — the county’s best spellers relied on etymology and recall to construct a flurry of complex words, including “geanticline,” “excoriate” and “quadrille.”
And of course “rhesus,” which describes a type of pale brown Indian monkey of active and playful disposition, often kept in captivity and widely used in medical research.
“I felt ecstatic after I spelled the championship word,” Nicholas said. “I plan to study a couple hours every day for nationals so that I can make the most of the opportunity to represent Orange County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.”
Dean Alkhairy, a seventh-grader from Fairmont Private School in North Tustin, finished second at the competition, earning a trophy and $300. Prakruthi Praveen, a seventh-grader from Venado Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District, finished third with prize of $150.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee begins on May 27 and will crown a national champion on May 30.