EL CENTRO – Imperial County has a new spelling bee champion in Kennedy Middle School seventh grader Ali Hussain who overcame fellow competitors to become the county’s representative in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Hussain will compete next at the national Bee in Washington D.C.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is an American tradition that began in 1925. Since then, the Bee has been going strong with 93 national champions over the years. The Imperial County Office of Education once again contributed to that tradition Wednesday night with the local round of Imperial County’s competition.
“Every student needs an opportunity to let their talents be in the spotlight,” said Dr. Todd Finnell, Imperial County superintendent of school. “And tonight, it’s this stage for these kids to show their talent.”
Forty-nine students from 20 Valley elementary and middle schools bested hundreds of their contemporaries in school competitions, and qualified to compete against each other in a contest of memorization and educated guesses in the county’s bee. The contestants had one objective – correctly spell out a word that is enunciated by the prompter. Competitors could ask questions to figure out the proper spelling, such as the definition, word origin, and to have it used in a sentence.
Simply said, but not simply done.
The words became harder as a the rounds continued, eliminating students, as did misheard words, or the nerves finally doing a contestant in. Even a common place word like “chocolate” could cause a slip-up when under pressure.
For Christal Troncoso from Cesar Chavez Elementary in Calexico, it wasn’t as scary since she had participated in the Bee before. “It was my second time, so I was calm and relaxed,” said Troncoso, “I like it. It’s about memorizing the words.”
After seven rounds of spelling word after word, Hussain emerged on top, spelling “pharmacy” with ease and a big grin as the crowd cheered. His family was there to greet him with hugs and proud smiles at the end of the Bee.
“It felt nerve-wracking to be up there, I was nervous and anxious,” said Hussain after his win. “To go to Washington is the chance of a lifetime.”
“I was confident,” said Syed Hussain, the father of the winner. “I was very confident he would make it through because he always does so well in school.”
With Hussain’s win comes a trip to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. to compete on May 25 and 26 against thousands of other students from all over the United States. The event will be broadcast on television.