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Top Spellers to Compete in Arizona State Spelling Bee on March 18, 2023

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Phoenix, Ariz., February 27, 2023 – Yes, they are just like any other kid. They like to play video games, hang out with friends, play musical instruments, and participate in sports. However, when they are not doing those things, the state’s top 27 spellers – ranging from grades 3 through 8 – are dedicating time to studying and practicing for the upcoming 2023 Arizona State Spelling Bee.

While Spelling Bees are a great American pastime, they are also tremendous tools for building written and verbal literacy skills. Spelling Bees begin at the classroom level and progress to grade level competitions, schoolwide, and then district Bees, with the final qualifier being a county or regional Bee. From county and regional Bees, 27 students emerge as finalists and move on to compete at the Arizona State Spelling Bee.

As the official state coordinator of the Arizona Spelling Bee, Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF®) staff provides technical support and enrollment assistance to thousands of teachers throughout Arizona each year; additionally, AEF works with each coordinator leading district, county, and regional Bees statewide. AEF is also the main organizer of the Arizona State Bee, which is the final competition each year to determine who will represent Arizona in the Scripps National Bee.


  • Shahasrad Balaji, 4th Grade, Age 9, Basis Peoria Primary, Basis Charter Schools, Maricopa County Region 4

  • Aanandi Dutta, 4th Grade, Age 9, Kyrene de los Cerritos, Kyrene School District, Maricopa County, Region 1

  • Anthony Estrella, 7th Grade, Age 12, Legacy Traditional School - Surprise, Legacy Traditional School, Maricopa County Region 5

  • Annabelle Gamez, 8th Grade, Age 13, Safford Middle School, Safford Unified District, Graham County

  • Catalina Garcia, 7th Grade, Age 12, Fairbanks Middle School, Morenci Unified School District, Greenlee County

  • Isabell Gavin, 8th Grade, Age 13, Veritas Christian Community School, Independent Charter School, Cochise County

  • Zane Gibbs, 8th Grade, Age 13, Blue Ridge Junior High School, Blue Ridge Unified School District, Navajo County

  • Ethan Greenwood, 8th Grade, Age 13, Coyote Hills Elementary School, Peoria Unified School District, Maricopa County Region 4

  • Calliope Hill, 6th Grade, Age 11, Montessori School of Flagstaff, American Montessori Society, Coconino Count

  • Kimora Holloway, 7th Grade, Age 13, Maricopa Virtual Academy, Maricopa Unified School District, Pinal County

  • Alrick James, 4th Grade, Age 9, Estrella Foothills Global Academy, Laveen School District, Maricopa County Region 3

  • Asiya Kabir, 6th Grade, Age 11, Arizona Cultural Academy, Independent Charter School, Maricopa County Region 1

  • Ishana Karthik, 5th Grade, Age 10, Adam's Traditional Academy, A Choice Academies School, Maricopa County Region 2

  • Ethan Knudson, 7th Grade, Age 13, Masada Charter School, Independent Charter School, Mohave County

  • Sai Manvik Malreddy, 8th Grade, Age 13, Explorer Middle School, Paradise Valley Unified School District, Maricopa County Region 2

  • Nathan Merrill, 8th Grade, Age 13, Legacy Traditional School - Northwest Tucson, Legacy Traditional School District, Pima County

  • Opal Mishra, 6th Grade, Age 12, Basha Accelerated Middle School, Chandler Unified School District, Maricopa County Region 6

  • Marcelina Olivarez, 5th Grade, Age 10, Copper Rim Elementary, Globe Unified School District, Gila County

  • Karen Opoku-Appoh, 8th Grade, Age 13, Marana Middle School, Marana Unified School District, Pima County

  • Regina Rascon, 7th Grade, Age 11, Bogle Junior High School, Chandler Unified School District, Maricopa County Region 6

  • Daniel Renteria, 8th Grade, Age 14, Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic School, Diocese of Tuscon, Yuma County

  • Jacob Schliekelman, 3rd Grade, Age 8, Erhenberg Elementary, Quartzite Elementary School District, La Paz County

  • Yug Sonawane, 8th Grade, Age 12, Phoenix Country Day School, Independent Charter School, Maricopa County Region 3

  • Khalista Talingdan, 8th Grade, Age 13, Verrado Middle School, Litchfield Elementary School District, Maricopa County Region 5

  • Alan Tryon, 8th Grade, Age 13, St. Johns Middle School, St. Johns Unified School District, Apache County

  • Miguel Valenzuela, 7th Grade, Age 12, Wade Carpenter Middle School, Nogales Unified School District, Santa Cruz County

  • Shaelyn Van Doren, 7th Grade, Age 11, Franklin Phonetic School, Independent Charter School, Yavapai County

This year AEF is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from Thunderbirds Charities to support the Arizona State Spelling Bee. Arizona has one of the largest Spelling Bee participation rates in the nation, with 484,122 students competing this year from public, private, parochial and homeschools statewide. For the two students who place first and second place in the State Spelling Bee, AEF supports travel for the students and their chaperones to represent Arizona as official champions in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland.

“We are proud to support The Arizona State Spelling Bee, hosted by the Arizona Educational Foundation," said Michael Golding, Thunderbirds Charities President. "This program provides another opportunity for students to improve upon their literacy skills in a fun and exciting way. We look forward to this event each year and are proud of the student’s hard work and dedication.

“Having Thunderbirds Charities serve as the presenting sponsor of the Arizona Spelling Bee is incredible,” says Kim Graham, AEF Executive Director. “They do so much to support education in Maricopa and Pinal counties and we are truly honored that they have chosen to support this vital academic opportunity for students.”

The Arizona State Spelling is scheduled for Saturday, March 18th, at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix, located at 5601 N 16th St. in Phoenix. The event is free and open to the public beginning at 10:30am, with the official Spelling Bee start time at 10:45am. Leading up to the State Bee, AEF features each of the 27 student finalists on its social media channels. A recorded copy of the spelling bee will be uploaded to the Arizona Educational Foundation's YouTube channel following the bee. The 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals will be broadcast live on ION the evening of Thursday, June 1, 2023.

For more details about the AEF Spelling Bee program, please visit

For more information about the Arizona State Spelling Bee and spellers, contact Dr. Teresa Hill, AEF Deputy Director and State Bee Coordinator, at or (520) 591-0972.

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About Thunderbirds Charities

Thunderbirds Charities is a non-profit organization formed in 1986 to distribute monies raised through the WM Phoenix Open. The mission of Thunderbirds Charities is to assist children and families, help people in need and improve the quality of life in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area. The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937 with the mission of promoting the Valley of the Sun through sports. The Thunderbirds consist of 55 “active” members and more than 285 “life” members. For more information on the Thunderbirds or the 2022 Waste Management Phoenix Open, visit For more information on the Thunderbirds Charities, visit

About Arizona Educational Foundation, AEF®

The mission of AEF is to celebrate excellence and cultivate equity in Pre-K-12th grade Arizona public education. This is accomplished through a variety of programs for teachers, administrators, and students. Some programs shine a spotlight on excellence; others provide a stepping stone to help support schools and educators on the road to awesomeness. In addition to the Arizona Teacher of the Year® program, AEF also coordinates the Arizona State Spelling Bee, the A+ School of Excellence® Award, the Principals Leadership Academy of Arizona, teachSTEM, Our World, and Take Your Legislator to School. AEF was founded in 1983, by then State Superintendent of Public Education, Carolyn Warner, who felt a nonprofit needed to be established to champion public education and recognize the great work of public school educators. AEF annually reaches over 500,000 students, teachers and administrators throughout Arizona. For more information visit, or contact

Media Contact:

Terri Bradford

Director of Communications & Digital Strategy, Arizona Educational Foundation

Mobile: 720-468-3996

Email address:


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