STOCKTON — Wicklund School fifth-grader Rohin Prashanth, the top speller in San Joaquin County, was among the competitors at this year’s California State Elementary Spelling Bee on Saturday.
As the competition got underway at the San Joaquin County Office of Education, more than 50 students eagerly awaited their chance for the glory of being named the state spelling bee champion in the fourth- through sixth-grade division.
Sitting on the stage before nearly 300 onlookers, the students from 28 counties took their turns at the podium to spell words given to them by spell master Donald W. Blount, Stockton Record editor. A few of the words spelled correctly during the competition were “devoted,” “expiration,” “hewn” and “centrifuge.”
Rohin, who was among the students who dominated through the first four rounds, said the words got progressively harder.
“They were pretty tough,” he said. “Some had silent letters and pronunciations that were slightly different than the way they were spelled.”
During the fifth round, which knocked out several competitors, Rohin met his match with the word “scrutinize.” He said he had written the word correctly on a scratch piece of paper, but when it came to spelling the letters out loud, he read it wrong and got eliminated.
As he walked off the stage, he was high-fived by a fellow competitor who sat next to him throughout the bee. He said making friends was one of the benefits of the experience.
“It was my first time at county and first time at state. Exciting, yes,” he said. “It definitely was (fun). I plan to do it again.”
Rohin’s mother, Sushma Prasad, said she and her husband were very proud of their son’s accomplishments.
“This is his first time,” she said. “For the state, he studied and worked hard, but he got to the county just with his reading; he didn’t prepare that much. I’m very proud of him.”
She said that they were nervous watching him compete, and they even took a dictionary with them to follow along.
“Any kid, not just Rohin, all worked hard to be there,” she said. “That momentum, pressure and attention, they missed things that they knew.
“He’s telling me he will go for it again next year,” she added. “His vocabulary is so much richer and he knows so many more words. A fabulous experience.”
Rohin secured first place at the county bee in early December by correctly spelling “basilisk,” which is a legendary reptile made popular by the Harry Potter series.
On Saturday, the state competition went 15 rounds and was won by 11-year-old Aziza Mohammed of Santa Clara County. The winning word was “camaraderie.”
Each competitor at the state bee was given a Kindle Fire, a medal and a state spelling bee backpack. The winner and the finalists in the top four were also awarded trophies.