If you’ve ever been to a spelling bee, you know the level of difficulty that spellers reach and how quickly the pack can narrow down. This year’s Desert Sands Unified School District bee was history-making, going a marathon three hours long.

Students from elementary and middle schools competed at their school site level to vie for a spot in the district level bee, held on January 9, 2019 at Indio High School’s Performing Arts Center. Thanks to the annual sponsorship from Optimist Club, bee trophies are provided each year to every participant with larger trophies for first and second place. Along with district representatives, volunteers from Optimist Club officiated as judges and the Spelling Bee Master was Optimist President John van Dalen.

County rules allow students up to eighth grade to participate and each campus determines a school spelling bee champion with an alternate for the district event. Out of twenty-seven elementary and middle schools in Desert Sands, this year’s district spelling bee started with twenty-one participants. Within a challenging seventeen rounds, featuring words from a study list provided to all students, the competition was narrowed down to the final two: a fourth grader and a fifth grader.

Spelling Champ Nails S-y-m-b-i-o-s-i-s, Symbiosis

Fourth grader Dylan Duy Le sealed his championship with the correct spelling of “symbiosis.” (Photo by Jan Diaz.)

For a nerve-racking 41 more rounds, the audience watched in anticipation as the two students battled it out, pronouncing each word then spelling and saying the word. Finally, at the 58th round, fifth grader Saige Yang from Ronald Reagan Elementary School reached her last word: efficacy. Fourth grader Dylan Duy Le from George Washington Charter Elementary School had his final word to make him the district champion. With steady concentration, Dylan spelled “symbiosis” correctly, earning his title of 2019 Desert Sands Unified School District Spelling Bee Champion!

The historically long district spelling bee finished after an unbelievable 259 words. District Spelling Bee Coordinator Chrissy Winchester shared, “The intensity of this year’s competition was amazing! The amount of preparation by our students was evident.” To show the level of preparation, Saige battled last year’s district champ Jaden Tolete at their Reagan Elementary site level spelling bee until the end of the school day when they ran out of words! They had to continue another day to determine their winner where they used words from last year’s district bee. Winner Dylan prepared by reading more books and studying new words, also sharing that he “entered the Spelling Bee to have fun with words”.

Spelling Champ Nails S-y-m-b-i-o-s-i-s, Symbiosis

Bee trophies sponsored by Optimist Club are presented to each participant. (Photo by Jan Diaz.)

The event concluded with DSUSD Board President Wendy Jonathan, Board Member Ana M. Conover, and Optimist President John van Dalen presenting trophies to each participating student with Board Member Donald Griffith applauding from the audience. All of the competitors walked on stage and introduced themselves, their grade level, and which school they represented while the audience of family members, teachers, principals, and friends cheered proudly.

Now Dylan will represent DSUSD at the Riverside County Spelling Bee Competition, with Saige as the alternate, and if they were to win, would go on to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. At only fourth and fifth grade, just imagine what accomplishments lie ahead!


Lead photo caption: DSUSD Board President Wendy Jonathan and Board Member Ana M. Conover award Spelling Bee Champion Dylan Duy Le and Runner-Up Saige Yang with trophies. (Photo by Jan Diaz.)