Benjamin Evans
Benjamin Evans after winning the San Diego County spelling bee. Contest PUSD

An eighth grader from Twin Peaks Middle School in Poway advanced Tuesday to the quarterfinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling two words and answering a vocabulary question.

Benjamin Evans correctly spelled Gondwana, the great southern landmass that formed as a result of the division of a much larger supercontinent known as Pangea about 250 million years ago. He also chose the correct answer to the vocabulary question, “What is a symposium?” by selecting, “a conference in which people give speeches.”

In the third round, Benjamin correctly spelled lycopene, a carotenoid pigment that is the red coloring matter of the tomato.

The 14-year-old qualified for the national bee by winning by the San Diego County Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in March, with two-time defending champion Mihir Konkapaka finishing second.

Benjamin correctly spelled epihippus — an extinct genus of the modern horse family that lived in the Eocene era, 38 million to 46 million years ago — as the winning word.

Benjamin’s hobbies include playing basketball, football and the piano. He enjoys reading books of all kinds and is a fan of Marvel movies. His favorite subject is math because he sees it as a puzzle. His favorite author is Brandon Mull, best known for his children’s fantasy series, “Fablehaven.”

Benjamin’s favorite athletes are Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy.

The bee began with a field of 245 spellers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Canada, the Bahamas, Germany and Ghana. The field was the largest since 2019.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland will be streamed on ION Plus, Bounce XL, Grit Xtra, Laff More and from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below and who were born on Sept. 1, 2008 or later. Contestants for the 96th edition of the national bee range in age from 8 to 15.

The bee will conclude Thursday. The winner will receive $50,000 from the Scripps National Spelling Bee, $2,500 and a reference library from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, $400 in reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica and a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium and a $350 prize package from SugarBee Apple, including a SugarBee Apple gift basket and $250 gift card.

San Diego County has produced two national spelling bee champions — Anurag Kashyap in 2005 and Snigdha Nandipati in 2012.

Updated at 3:54 p.m. May 28, 2024

— City News Service