Spell check: La Jolla students get ‘a good experience’ in Countywide Spelling Bee

The Preuss School student Esther Agoh competed in the March 9 Countywide Spelling Bee.
(Patience Agoh)

Esther Agoh and Jake Leonhardt were among 76 public and private school students competing in the 53rd annual event.


Two La Jolla students braved The San Diego Union-Tribune Countywide Spelling Bee on March 9, joining other sixth- through eighth-graders at the 53rd annual event in Mission Valley.

Esther Agoh and Jake Leonhardt were among 76 public and private school students who competed in the first in-person Countywide Spelling Bee since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2023 contest, organized by the Union-Tribune in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education and sponsored by San Diego County Credit Union, lasted eight rounds.

Mihir Konkapaka, a Mesa Verde Middle School seventh-grader from Sabre Springs, won for the second year in a row. Mihir will represent San Diego County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 30 to June 1 in Washington, D.C. Last year, Mihir made it to the third round in the national bee.

Esther, a seventh-grader at The Preuss School on the UC San Diego campus, was eliminated in the first round but is considering entering again next year.

“It was a good experience,” she said. “I’ll study more words.”

Esther entered the countywide bee after winning her classroom’s spelling bee.

Competing “felt good, but I was also really nervous,” she said.

All Hallows Academy student Jake Leonhardt participated in the Countywide Spelling Bee for the second year in a row.
(Erinn Leonhardt)

Jake, an eighth-grader at All Hallows Academy in La Jolla, was eliminated after making it to the second round, which dwindled the competition from the original 76 participants to 28.

This was Jake’s second time entering the Countywide Spelling Bee but the first time in person. He won his school’s spelling bee two years in a row.

“I believe it’s a good experience to go there,” Jake said of the countywide bee. He added that participating helps him with public speaking.

Attending in person is better than online, he said, because there are no internet issues and “it’s more interactive.”

He felt the words this year were harder than last year, when he made it to the fourth round.

— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Kristen Taketa contributed to this report.