AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – From May 30 through June 1, Texas will send the most competitors of any state to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for its 95th annual competition in National Harbor, Maryland.
The 231 qualifying spellers, said the organization, include nine to 14-year-olds from all 50 states, as well as 11 from neighboring countries and territories. However, Texas will boast the largest contribution to the pool with 21 competitors.
The high number of spellers isn’t Texas’s only distinction, either. Among the 21 headed northeast from the Lone Star State, Kirsten Tiffany Santos from Houston is among two returning finalists from the 2022 national competition, when she tied for fifth with Surya Kapu from Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, Akash Vukoti from San Angelo is returning to the competition for a record sixth time.
As noted by the organization, Texas is also home to one of three special recognitions for the 2023 Bee. The 2023 Regional Volunteer of the Year will be highlighted as Daniel Notman, a project manager in the office of the president of Baylor University and a volunteer pronouncer for the Central Texas regional spelling bee organized by Rapoport Holdings, LLC.
“Bee Week is a truly unforgettable experience, combining the thrill and accomplishment of onstage competition with the joy of making lifelong connections offstage,” said Corrie Loeffler, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in a May announcement for the event.
Back at home, the Amarillo community will be able to cheer for its local speller headed into the national competition; 13-year-old Jayden Zheng of Bonham Middle School.
“Jayden is a math and science enthusiast who also loves history,” said the Scripps description of Amarillo’s local speller, “In addition to the Spelling Bee, he participates in Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, Mathcounts and choir at school.”
In April, according to announcements from the school, the Bonham Middle School Science Olympiad placed eighth in Texas, and all five of the seventh and eighth-grade choirs that competed in UIL returned with trophies.
Other spellers from around the High Plains region include 11-year-old Ava Flores of Rush Elementary School in Lubbock, 13-year-old Shwetha Jayakumar of Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Midland, and 13-year-old Ajay Gundlapalli of Ector County Independent School District in Odessa.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee website includes a full list of participating spellers, as well as further information about the competition and broadcast.