top of page

Top Spellers to Compete in Arizona State Spelling Bee on March 19, 2022

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Phoenix, Ariz., March 9, 2022 – Yes, they are just like any other kid. They like to play video games, hang out with friends, sing, dance, and participate in sports. However, when they’re 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 2022 Arizona State Spelling Bee.

The road leading up to the Arizona Spelling Bee began in December when schools throughout the state held qualifying bees. It is the 24th year the event is being coordinated by the Arizona Educational Foundation. All Arizona schools including public, private, charter, and homeschools are eligible to compete. Winners progressed to district bees in January and then county and regional Bees in early 2022. The Arizona State Spelling is scheduled for Saturday, March 19th, 2022 at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix.

This year, the Arizona Educational Foundation, who is the official State Spelling Bee coordinator, is the recipient of a $20,000 grant from Thunderbirds Charities to support the Arizona State Spelling Bee. “We are proud to once again support AEF’s Arizona State Spelling Bee," said Scott Jenkins, Thunderbirds Charities President. “This annual event reinforces their self-confidence and how reading and writing can be fun and rewarding. We look forward to seeing this year’s participants and celebrating their success.”

“We are so grateful for the support from Thunderbirds Charities,” 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 student who wins the State Spelling Bee goes on to represent Arizona as the official State Champion in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Arizona has one of the largest Spelling Bee participation rates in the nation, with close to 300,000 students competing each year from public, private, charter, and homeschools statewide. In June the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be held in Washington D.C., and ION will televise the Semifinals on June 1, and the Finals on June 2.


– Apache County: Diana Oliver, 8th grade, Age 13, St. John's Middle School, St. John's Unified School District

– Cochise County: Khalista Talingdan, 7th grade, Age 13, Colonel Smith Middle School, Fort Huachuca Accommodation School District

– Coconino County: Nathan Finney, 8th Grade, Age 13, Flagstaff Home Educators, Homeschool

– Gila County: Marcelina Olivarez, 4th Grade, Age 9, Copper Rim Elementary, Globe Unified School District

– Graham County: Janelle Vandermeulen, 6th Grade, Age 11, Bonita Elementary School, Bonita Elementary School District

– Greenlee County: Sadie Bausch, 7th Grade, Age 12, Fairbanks Middle School, Morenci Unified School District

– La Paz County: Russell Smith, 5th Grade, Age 10, Le Pera Elementary School, Parker Unified School District

– Maricopa County, Region 1: Vibhav Athreya, 7th Grade, Age 12, BASIS Ahwatukee, BASIS Charter Schools

– Maricopa County, Region 1: Olivia Vaughn, 7th Grade, Age 12, Saint John Bosco Catholic School, Diocese of Phoenix

– Maricopa County, Region 2: Jacob Sajan, 8th Grade, Age 13, Highland Lakes School, Deer Valley Unified School District

– Maricopa County, Region 2: Gianna Inserra, 7th Grade, Age 13, St. John XXIII, Diocese of Phoenix

– Maricopa County, Region 3: Greyson Checky, 6th Grade, Age 11, Estrella Foothills Global Academy, Laveen Elementary School District

– Maricopa County, Region 3: Azzam Hadaddien, 5th Grade, Age 11, St. Theresa Catholic School, Diocese of Phoenix

– Maricopa County, Region 4: Michael Nierva, 7th Grade, Age 13, Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral School, Diocese of Phoenix

– Maricopa County, Region 4: Ethan Greenwood, 7th Grade, Age 12, Coyote Hills Elementary, Peoria Unified School District

– Maricopa County, Region 5: Srihaas Ghanta, 8th Grade, Age 13, Trivium Prep Academy, Great Hearts Academies

– Maricopa County, Region 5: Zion Lal, 8th Grade, Age 13, Legacy Traditional School-Avondale, Legacy Traditional Schools

– Maricopa County, Region 6: Esha Marupudi, 4th Grade, Age 9, BASIS Chandler Primary South, BASIS Schools

– Maricopa County, Region 6: Ayden Thielsen, 6th Grade, Age 11, Higley Traditional Academy, Higley Unified School District

– Mohave County: Mykenzie DeVries, 7th Grade, Age 11, White Cliffs Middle School, Kingman Unified School District

– Navajo County: Gia Goaziou, 7th Grade, Age 12, Snowflake Junior High School, Snowflake Unified School District

– Pima County: Lewis Harvey, 8th Grade, Age 12, Continental Elementary School, Continental Unified School District

– Pima County: Kian Huff, 8th Grade, Age 13, Lawrence W. Cross Middle School, Amphitheater Unified School District

– Pinal County: Anisa Stout, 7th Grade, Age 12, Oracle Elementary School, Oracle Unified School District

– Santa Cruz County: Angelina Coil, 5th Grade, Age 10, Sonshine Christian School, Ministry of First Baptist Church

– Yavapai County: Aliyah Alpert, 6th Grade, Age 10, Alpert Homeschool

– Yuma County: Daniel Renteria, 7th Grade, Age 12, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, Diocese of Tucson

To allow for social distancing and other safety measures, the event will not be open to the public this year, and each speller will be allowed to bring guests with them. AEF will announce the Arizona Spelling Bee Champion following the competition, and a video recording of the spelling bee will be uploaded to the Arizona Educational Foundation's YouTube channel the week following the bee.

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

For more information about the Arizona State Spelling Bee or finalist information, contact Dr. Teresa Hill, State Bee Coordinator, at or 520-591-0972.

AEF Arizona Spelling Bee Finalists Press Release 2022
Download PDF • 441KB


About Arizona Educational Foundation:

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, Take Your Legislator to School, and Our World. 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

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

Media Contact:

Terri Bradford

Director of Communications & Digital Strategy, Arizona Educational Foundation

Mobile: 720-468-3996

Email address:


bottom of page