Poway Spelling Bee Scripps
Mihir Konkapaka, lower middle, beams after spelling the winning word. Photo credit: Screen shot, via video courtesy of the San Diego County Office of Education

A sixth grader at Poway Unified School District Connect Academy became the champion of the 52nd annual Countywide Spelling Bee Thursday.

Mihir Konkapaka correctly spelled “sabreur,” a noun meaning one that fences with a light dueling sword, and moves on now to represent San Diego County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“Thanks to all my teachers at school – they helped to cheer me on – and my friends and my parents,” Mihir said after the win.

The Countywide Spelling Bee was virtual again this year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sixty students from grades six to eight in public and independent schools throughout the county participated.

“The Spelling Bee is a time-honored academic competition that any student can participate in to connect with school and develop skills that will help them in the future,” said Dr. Paul Gothold, the county superintendent of schools. “Students learn to set goals, dedicate time to studying, and gain experience in public speaking, all of which are useful in both college and career.”

Round one started off with all 60 spellers and relatively easy words. The competition quickly became more difficult and the field narrowed through 11 rounds.

Jedd Li from Francis Parker School became the alternate should Mihir be unable to compete in the national bee.

Local students have a history of strong showings at the national level. In 2012, the local winner, Francis Parker School student Snigdha Nandipati, won the national spelling bee. Seven years earlier, Anurag Kashyap, from Poway won.

To prepare, spellers studied the 2022 School Spelling Bee Study List, the Words of the Champions and the Word Club app, provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

The spelling bee pronouncer this year was Walter Ritter, executive director of Write Out Loud, an organization that seeks to share literature by reading aloud to audiences of all ages.