She's the W-I-N-N-E-R!

Westminster School District 7th grader won the 2024 Orange County Spelling Bee and will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

She's the W-I-N-N-E-R!
Katelyn Nguyen, a seventh grader, recently won the 2024 Orange County Spelling Bee. Photo courtesy of Westminster School District.

Katelyn Nguyen is the best in Orange County when it comes to spelling. The seventh grader recently won the 2024 Orange County Spelling Bee

She was left a bit spell shocked by the experience.

“I still can't really believe it,” a wide-eyed Katelyn said during a Zoom interview, days after the competition. “I just went into the spelling bee hoping to get second or third place.”

Instead, the 13-year-old student at Helen Stacey Middle School in Huntington Beach finished in first place. With the win, Katelyn will now represent Orange County in the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held in the Washington D.C. area in May. 

“I'm nervous but excited,” she said of competing on the national stage.

To get there, Katelyn beat out more than one hundred other top spellers from across Orange County during the two-day event held in late February and early March. Katelyn successfully spelled the word “discretionary” during the 20th round of the competition to secure the top trophy.

“I was crying because I still couldn't believe it,” Katelyn recalled of the moment she won. Her mother and her former teacher who were there supporting her also shed tears of joy, she added.

“We are very happy," Katelyn’s father, Binh Nguyen, said in a Zoom interview. "We actually did not expect to go this far.”

“Katelyn really is just an inspiration for all of our other students with the achievements she's accomplished,” Stacey Middle School Principal Rick Nichols said in a Zoom interview. 

Katelyn and her father made a point to thank the educators who have helped Katelyn in her journey. “My teachers and the principal helped support me to be able to win this amazing achievement and I couldn't be more grateful for that,” Katelyn said.

Katelyn’s win is historic. She’s the first student from the Westminster School District to win the Orange County Spelling Bee.

“Katelyn's success not only reflects her individual brilliance but is also a testament and tribute to the academic excellence that Stacey Middle School in WSD provides,” the school district said in a statement.

Katelyn appeared on Good Day L.A. on Fox 11 last week and did a spelling competition with the anchors.

Her achievement is getting her a lot of attention and even landed her on television. Katelyn recently appeared on Good Day L.A. on Fox 11 in Los Angeles where she competed with the hosts in an informal spelling competition. Katelyn was also recognized by the WSD Board of Education at a recent meeting. 

Katelyn said she competed in her first spelling bee in fourth grade and has racked up a lot of wins. She finished in the top ten at last year’s Orange County Spelling Bee.

Katelyn made it to the highest levels of competitive spelling with hours of hard work. She said she studies words at least 30 minutes a day, and sometimes up to three hours on the weekends. She memorizes words, consults the dictionary for pronunciations, and then her mother and father quiz her.

Any mistakes are written down and the words are revisited. “It really helps me memorize the words,” Katelyn shared and added that she will stick with this method as she prepares for the National Spelling Bee, consulting its Words of the Champions study guide.

Katelyn was recognized for her stellar spelling at the Westminster School District Board of Education meeting on March 7. Photo courtesy of WSD.

Katelyn and her family are looking forward to their trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Spelling Bee, which will be paid for by the Orange County Register. The seventh grader said she is excited to see the national monuments. Her father said they are there to soak it all in.

“We will just be there for the experience and we’ll just enjoy the moment,” he said.

What is Katelyn’s message to aspiring spellers out there? “I would tell them to just try it just because the first time I did it, I was really hesitant to do it. And then I fell in love with it. So at least give it a shot." 

As we get closer to the competition, check for how to watch Katelyn compete in the National Spelling Bee.

And if you want to participate in next year’s O.C. Spelling Bee, visit the Orange County Spelling Bee website for more information.

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