A Corona-Norco Unified School District seventh grader on Thursday claimed the championship title in Riverside County’s 45th Spelling Bee, extending his family’s ownership of the local top speller mantle for the seventh time.
Avijeet Randhawa correctly spelled “forbs,” a plant species, to win the bee and advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, where he will represent the county.
Avijeet endured multiple rounds over three hours to beat out his competition and become the third person in his family to claim top honors in the countywide bee, which was held Thursday at the Moreno Valley Conference & Recreation Center.
“One of the hardest words was ‘forbs,’ because that first sound in Greek is usually ‘ph,'” he said. “But then I remembered about five months ago, my sister quizzed me on it, and we went over it because it was an exception.”
The Auburndale Intermediate School student said he followed his two older sisters’ advice not to feel “anxious … to keep on breathing, focus, and no matter what, keep on going.”
“The moment when I was most nervous, I could feel my heart beating, but I took deep breaths like my dad told me, and I was able to get the spelling,” Avijeet said.
The youth said he makes it a habit to learn and repeat 500 to 800 words daily.
“I’m feeling excited and happy and can’t wait to go to the (national) competition,” he said. “This takes a lot of work, but if you keep going at it, you’ll be able to do it. I am really thankful for my parents’ and siblings’ help, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
A total of 27 contestants took part in the county bee, which was the first in-person competition since 2019. Fourth grader Victoria Michael-Taiwo from the Lake Elsinore Unified School District was the runner-up, followed by sixth grader Profess Adhikari from River Springs Charter School in third place.
The bees in 2021 and 2022 were all-virtual. The 2020 bee was nixed when then-County Public Health Officer Cameron Kaiser declared a coronavirus public health emergency. The 2021 and 2022 events were held online due to ongoing precautionary measures implemented by the County Office of Education.
Avijeet’s family has formed a quasi-dynasty on the academic stage in Riverside County. Last year, his sister, Lara Randhawa, claimed the county championship title after correctly spelling “cumulocirrus,” which is an upper atmosphere cloud.
Lara, who previously attended Auburndale Intermediate, also took top honors in the county’s 2021 virtual bee.
Aisha Randhawa laid the groundwork for her younger siblings’ success, winning local championship titles in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, paving the way for her to compete nationally in each of those years.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is slated for May 28-June 3 at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, according to the Office of Education.
The county bees began in 1978.