More than two-dozen students in grades 4-8 will put their word power to the test today in the 41st annual Riverside County Spelling Bee.
The event is set for 9 a.m. at the Moreno Valley Conference & Recreation Center, where multiple rounds are planned into the afternoon.
A total 28 students from public and private schools throughout the county are slated to take part in the event. Twenty-six “alternates” will also be on hand in case the principals drop out due to illness or other unforeseen developments, according to county Office of Education spokesman Craig Petinak.
The champion speller for the last two years — Aisha Randhawa from Auburndale Intermediate School in the Corona-Norco Unified School District — will be back for another go at the championship title. A win for Aisha today would be unprecedented, making her the first three-time champ speller in the four-decade history of the Riverside County Spelling Bee.
Petinak said that, including Aisha, six of this year’s competitors have taken part in bees between 2014 and 2017.
Among first-time contestants is fifth-grader Elijah Tran from Boulder Ridge Elementary School in the Romoland Unified School District. Tran said that he was inspired to enter the contest because “one of my teachers died, and he really believed I could go all the way.”
Other school districts that will be represented at the bee are:
Alvord Unified School District; Banning Unified; Beaumont Unified; Coachella Valley Unified; Desert Center Unified Desert Sands Unified; Hemet Unified; Lake Elsinore Unified; Menifee Union; Moreno Valley Unified; Murrieta Valley Unified; Nuview Union School District; Palm Springs Unified; Palo Verde Unified; Perris Union School District; San Jacinto Unified; Temecula Valley Unified; and Val Verde Unified.
Additionally, the following unaffiliated schools will have students in the competition: Highland Academy Charter School, Pechanga School, River Springs Charter School, Santa Rosa Academy, St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, Temecula Preparatory and Van Avery Preparatory.
The overall winner of the bee will go on to represent Riverside County in the national contest, scheduled for May 27-June 2 in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Aisha represented the county there in 2016 and 2017.