Phillips Preparatory School sixth-grader Marlan Zha won the Mobile County Regional Spelling Bee today.
He did so in the 21st round on the word “kuruma,” which is the Japanese word for “car.”
“I’ve participated in the spelling bee for three years and finally reached my goal” to win, said Zha, who placed third overall last year as a fifth-grader at O’Rourke Elementary and second as a fourth-grader. He has up to two more years to be eligible for the Regional Spelling Bee, which includes students in grades 3 through 8.
To prepare for the competition, Zha studied 1,150 words. This year, he learned the definitions, which helped him better understand how to spell the words.
“Hard work pays off,” Zha said.
Garrett Upshaw from St. Luke’s won second place and Peyton Maples from UMS-Wright Preparatory School won third place. Also placing in the top six were Edie Shamback of Clark-Shaw, Grace Lyons of UMS-Wright and Richard Pham of Burns Middle School.
The 90th annual Spelling Bee was sponsored by the Dollar General. Bob Grip from Fox10 was the host. It was held in the auditorium at Davidson High School.
Dozens of students who won their school-level spelling bees competed. The students came from public and private schools throughout Mobile County.
Amanda Smalley, an elementary resource teacher for Mobile County Public Schools, organized the event. While backstage during the competition, she confessed to some of the contestants that she did not know what some of the tough words meant.
“I don’t either,” she said a young girl told her. “But I know how to spell them.”