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Winston Churchill student advances to Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Scripps Bee Finalist For Winston Churchill Middle School student Samhita Kumar, it all came down to the word “tuatara.” After competing for more than five hours, the sixth-grader correctly spelled the name of a reptile native to New Zealand, securing her place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in May.

Kumar rose to the top of the group of 60 third- to eighth-graders who competed in this year’s Central Valley Spelling Bee at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. This was Kumar’s third year competing in the event.

Although she trains every day with her father acting as a “spell coach,” Kumar said she was still surprised she won.

“I’ve never won before,” Kumar said. “It’s really exciting because now I’m going to Scripps National Spelling Bee.”

Scripps National Spelling Bee is one of the nation's oldest spelling competitions. It began in 1925 after nine newspapers came together to host the inaugural competition and promote literacy. Since then, 11 million students have been reached through the Scripps National Spelling Bee program. Kumar will be one of more than 250 students competing this year.