Kevin Narang and Ethan Woolum outlasted the rest of the field in the annual Sanger Unified School District Spelling Bee.

Chloe Acapulco, a sixth-grader from Quail Lake, exited the Feb. 7 competition in the seventh round, earning the third-place nod. The crowd filling the Washington Academic Middle School auditorium remained dead silent as coordinator Amy Williams explained just how the winner would be chosen.

Kevin, a sixth-grader from Sanger Academy Charter, and Ethan, a fifth-grader from Reagan Elementary, would duel until a winner was obvious. And that meant spelling a couple more words than the other.

Kevin got “galleria” correct. Ethan missed “mirage,” so it went back to Kevin. Kevin manhandled mirage and then spelled “fresco” and won it all.

He didn’t jump up and down. That’s not protocol. But he did smile. So did Ethan and Chloe. They emerged the top three. Each got trophies and a bunch of people shot their pictures.

The next phase of the competition is at the Fresno County level. The competition will be held March 19 at Fresno State. 

Kevin said the pressure will be intense. He won the fourth through sixth grade contest last year, too. “A lot more,” he said. “There’s a lot more people.”

Kevin advised those interested in participating in the spelling bee at some future date to study, and he said to not forget words with capital letters. “I studied almost every day,” he said. “Just page by page.”

Ethan said he studied, too. “Really hard,” he said. “Every day I would study for almost two hours a day.”

His advice to future spellers was simple but somewhat contradictory. “Try your hardest,” he said. “Never give up, and never push yourself too hard.”

Ethan said he’s looking forward to continuing, but he still had some jitters from the competition. “When I went on stage, my heart was almost stopping,” he said.

Reagan Elementary principal Christy Platt told Ethan, “Now you’re going to be famous.” She said she is proud not only of him but of his fellow Reagan competitor fourth-grader Hailey Foltz, who lasted at least several rounds. “She’s going to be back next year.”

Amongst seventh- and eighth-graders, Jayden Ponce from Quail Lake emerged victorious. Ivan Rodriguez, an eighth-grader from WAMS, was second, and Jillian Silva, an eighth-grader from Hallmark Charter School was third.

Ponce won early, forcing four others to go into a sudden death competition to determine the next two places. They got words like vestibule, ethos, ingestible, disavow and brigade to sort them out.

Ponce gave this advice to others interested in entering competition. “Just study a lot,” he said. As for the competition, which is a sit-down spelling bee in which contestants write down their final answer, he said, “I was very nervous.”

The reporter can be contacted by email at or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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