Meet the seven Sacramento-area students competing in national spelling bee

Seven capital-region whiz kids are headed to Washington, D.C., this weekend to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee starting Monday.

Logan Swain of Arden Middle School and Samhita Kumar of Winston Churchill Middle School, both eighth graders, won the California Central Valley Spelling Bee after a new rule was incorrectly implemented.

Kumar rightfully won the competition in the seventh round, when she was the only participant to correctly spell a word – “coterie.” The new rule requires the last speller standing to spell one additional word in a championship round and Kumar did that, correctly spelling the follow-up word, “piupiu.”

Since Kumar was the only person who could spell a word in the seventh round, the competition should have ended. But the competition continued with a spell-off between Kumar and Swain, which resulted in a win for Swain.

After reviewing the rules, The Sacramento Bee, which organized the competition, decided to send both Swain and Kumar to the national competition.

Kumar won the Central Valley Spelling Bee in 2017 and 2018, which qualified her to participate in the national competition both years. The 13-year-old placed 18th in the national bee in 2017 and tied for 34th place in 2018.

Swain said he wasn’t expecting to win the regional bee, and told The Sacramento Bee in March that he didn’t do any formal practicing other than reading.

“I wasn’t planning to win,” Swain said. “I just wanted to come, have fun and I did not know this would happen… I don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked in my life. I’m like buzzing with excitement.”

Swain is an author and has published four books, according to his speller profile on the national bee’s website.

Other Sacramento-area spellers in the competition include 13-year-old 7th grader Megan Lynch of St. Albans Country Day School in Roseville. Lynch is from Granite Bay, plays percussion in her school’s band and is interested in biology and neuroscience, according to her profile.

13-year-old aspiring physician Sarah Yee of Granite Oaks Middle School in Rocklin will be joining Swain, Kumar and Lynch in Washington, D.C. Yee tied for 42nd place at the national bee in 2018.

From Folsom, 13-year-old airplane enthusiast Sebastian Arias-Obando of Phoenix Elementary School will be participating in the national bee for the second time. Arias-Obando tied for 42nd place at the national bee in 2018.

The youngest of the Capital Region’s competitors is 8-year-old Nicholas Perry of St. Rose School in Roseville. The third grader has a purple belt in martial arts and likes to play Pokemon card games in his free time, according to his speller profile.

Third grader Nithika Rangan of Brookfield School will be joining the six other students in Washington, D.C. The 9-year-old from Elk Grove likes to sing and performs at events in Sacramento with her vocal team.

The seven students will participate in preliminary competitions, workshops, parties and other events over the course of the week. The winner of the national bee wins a trophy and $50,000.

More than 11 million students across the nation are estimated to have participated in this year’s spelling bee circuit, according to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

If you’re looking to watch these local wunderkind compete, ESPN and its family of channels will broadcast all stages of the competition.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee