UCSC Classroom Units thrummed with excitement on Saturday, January 26 as over eighty of the county’s best spellers gathered once again under the redwood trees for the annual Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee. The students, divided into an Elementary Division, for grades 4-6 and Junior Division for grades 7-9, represented public and private schools from across the county.
Sixth grader Ella Webb of Scotts Valley Middle School took home the first place trophy for the Elementary Division, with a perfect paper. According to Spellmaster Mardi Browning of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Ella is just one of a handful of students to achieve this over the decades-long history of the bee. Deciding second and third place necessitated a spell-off between Jovanah Jimmy, a fourth grader at Ocean Grove Charter School, Abigail Jimmy, a sixth grader at Ocean Grove, and Taylin Witten Hannah, a sixth grader at Scotts Valley Middle School. All three of them spelled fifty-three of the initial fifty-four words correctly. After the spell-off, Jovanah Jimmy was awarded the second place trophy and her sister Abigail the third place trophy.
In the Junior Division, last year’s champion, eighth grader Owen Mercer of Scotts Valley Middle School correctly spelled fifty-six out of sixty-two words correctly, including “picayunish” and “millennium” to once again take home the first place trophy. Second place went to Ellen Zhan, an eighth grader at Pacific Collegiate School. Determining third place required a word-by-word spell-off between Laurena Chen of Monte Vista Christian School and Hunter Reid of Kirby School. Laurena won third place after correctly spelling “aficionado”.
The top two winners from each division represent Santa Cruz County at the State Spelling Bees held in May in Stockton for the Elementary Division and Marin County for the Junior Division.