(EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT — March 24, 2023) — Arnav Tonde, a Wiggs Middle School eighth grader, claimed the El Paso Regional Spelling Bee championship after besting 33 spellers Friday during the competition at Andress High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Tonde’s winning word was diatom, which is defined as a single-celled algae that has a cell wall comprised of silica. Tonde, who was runner-up in the competition in 2021, was pleased to have claimed the competition’s top prize. The runner-up was Sheneli De Silva from Young Women’s STEAM Prep, the 2020 winner.
“It feels great, it feels amazing,” Tonde said. “I just feel so happy to have finally won after so long. I want to thank my parents for helping me so much, helping me practice, teaching me tricks for words, teaching me, really, the benefit of hard work.”
By virtue of his win, Tonde will compete against the nation’s best in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will take place in late May or early June in Washington, D.C.
Tonde — who correctly spelled redingote, escritoire, linnet, zugzwang, Kuiper belt, dvandva and microcosm in the final round en route to his win — said he will continue to study root words and language phonetics in preparation for the national competition.
“I just need to study the dictionary, really,” he said.
The El Paso Regional Spelling Bee was presented by the EPISD Education Foundation. Thirty-four students from school districts, private schools and charter schools in El Paso and Southern New Mexico participated in the competition.
Spellers began with an online-preliminary round in mid-February that included 25 spelling and 25 vocabulary words. The finalists represent those with the top scores.
Emma Maze from Harmony School of Science and Francis Repato from John Drugan School tied for third place.
The El Paso Regional Bee is sponsored by Peter Piper Pizza.