Spellbound in OC: County’s new spelling bee champ is headed to Scripps

Spelling bee winner

Orange County crowned a new spelling bee champion on Saturday.

Katelyn Nguyen, a seventh-grader from Stacey Middle School in the Westminster School District, emerged victorious in the 20th round of the Orange County Spelling Bee by correctly sequencing the letters in “discretionary,” meaning subject to individual judgment. With the win comes a trip to the famed Scripps National Spelling Bee in May, with travel expenses covered by the Orange County Register.

Katelyn, who is a veteran of last year’s county bee, said she’s been going over the “Words of the Champions” study guide with her family one to two hours per day — and as many as three hours on weekends.

“My family would search out the pronunciations on Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the online one, and I would try to spell it,” she said. “If I got it wrong they would mark it, and we would come back to it later.”

OC’s stellar spellers

The path to the championship began with 130 spellers who won their respective school or district spelling bees. These competitors gathered at Orange Coast College on Monday, Feb. 26, to face a challenging 25-question written spelling and vocabulary test. 

The top 27 spellers from this rigorous test, deemed semifinalists, were then invited to the final oral round, which began on Saturday morning.

Once again, the competition was fierce, as students grappled with words like “supercilious,” “tussock,” “dyspeptic,” “vacillate,” “utilitarian” and “breviloquence.”

Second and third place

Second place in the Orange County Spelling Bee went to Chaaya Springer, a seventh-grader from The Pegasus School, which is an independent campus in Huntington Beach. Chaaya exited in round 19, earning a $250 prize. 

Spelling bee winners
Chaaya Springer (center) of The Pegasus School took second place, and Lucia Yu (left) from Rancho Middle School in Irvine placed third.

Lucia Yu from Rancho San Joaquin Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District placed third, advancing to round 13 and earning $100.

OCDE Coordinator Kristin Rigby said she’s consistently impressed with the spelling abilities of students and their poise at the microphone.

“I know it is nerve-wracking to stand up in front of a room full of people and spell challenging words aloud,” she said. “One of my favorite things about the bee is how supportive the students are of one another. They seem to have such respect for their fellow competitors probably because they know how much effort goes into participating in a regional spelling bee.”

Interested in participating in next year’s spelling bee? Visit the Orange County Spelling Bee website or contact Coordinator Kristin Rigby at krigby@ocde.us for information.