Two eighth-grade boys schooled the competition at Saturday’s Pima County Spelling Bee, qualifying them for the state contest next month in Phoenix.
Christopher O’Connor, a student at St. Cyril of Alexandria School, and Caleb Smith, a student at Esperero Canyon Middle School, survived more than 30 rounds and knocked 41 competitors out of the contest before reaching the hefty final word, “corpulent,” said Jaymie Jacobs, who organizes the county bee.
In past years, a distinction was made between first- and second-place winners. However, this year organizers opted to announce them as co-winners, said Jacobs, who would not reveal which boy spelled the final word correctly.
“This group of kids were some of the best spellers we’ve had in many years,” Jacobs said.
Michael Chen, a fifth-grader at BASIS Oro Valley, a charter school, finished third and is an alternate to go to the state bee March 29.
“All three are very nice, very polite, great kids,” Jacobs said. “It was a really good group of students.”
The bee was held at the Berger Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.
This was the fourth round of competition for the boys, who had to win in bees held in their classrooms, schools and districts before reaching the county contest hosted by the Pima County School Superintendent’s Office.
Christopher represents the Diocese of Tucson, Caleb is from the Catalina Foothills Unified School District and Michael represents BASIS Schools.
Last year, Christopher won the state bee and qualified to represent Arizona in May as one of 281 competitors in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in National Harbor, Md., outside Washington, D.C. He made it as far as the semifinals, where he was stumped by the word “pultaceous,” defined as “having a soft consistency.”