Pima County teenager wins Arizona Spelling Bee, will head to nationals with Chandler runner-up

Mar 20, 2023, 12:00 PM

Arizona Spelling Bee champion Karen Opoku-Appoh. (Arizona Educational Foundation Photo) Arizona spelling champion Karen Opoku-Appoh. (Arizona Educational Foundation Photo) Judges of the 2023 Arizona Spelling Bee. (Arizona Educational Foundation Photo) The top three finishers at the Arizona Spelling Bee. (Arizona Educational Foundation Photo) The top five finishers at the 2023 Arizona Spelling Bee. (Arizona Educational Foundation Photo) Arizona Spelling Bee competitors. (Arizona Educational Foundation Photo)

PHOENIX – An eighth grader from Pima County bested a field of 26 other students to capture the Arizona Spelling Bee over the weekend and advance to the national contest in late spring.

Karen Opoku-Appoh, 13, from Marana Middle School took the title Saturday in Phoenix by correctly spelling “passage,” event sponsor Arizona Educational Foundation said in a press release.

Runner-up Opal Mishra, 12, a sixth grader from Basha Accelerated Middle School in Chandler, also earned the right to represent Arizona at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The finals will be broadcast live June 1.

“Being a champion speller takes thousands of hours of hard work, and it’s exciting to see all of the students showcasing their talents at the bee,” foundation Deputy Director Teresa Hill said.

Valley schoolkids rounded out the top five spellers. Eighth grader Sai Manvik Malreddy, 13, from Explorer Middle School in Phoenix, finished third; seventh grader Regina Rascon, 11, from Bogle Junior High in Chandler, finished fourth; and fourth grader Alrick James, 9, from Estrella Foothills Global Academy in Phoenix, finished fifth.

Opoku-Appoh, Mishra and their chaperones will travel to the big bee in National Harbor, Maryland, a suburb of Washington.

The AEF recently received a $25,000 grant from Phoenix-based nonprofit Thunderbird Charities to support the state bee and assist the top two finishers’ travel back East.

“We look forward to this event each year and are proud of the student’s hard work and dedication,” Thunderbirds Charities President Michael Golding said in a February announcement.

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Pima County teenager wins Arizona Spelling Bee, will head to nationals with Chandler runner-up