HANFORD — Four local students are making a bee-line straight toward the state championships after winning the Kings County Spelling Bee in their respective grades.

Around 168 students total in first through eighth grades participated in the Kings County Spelling Bee, which ran from Feb. 27 to March 2 inside the Hanford Civic Auditorium.

Leana Cantrell, coordinator of the spelling bee for the third year, said each day was made up of two competitions, with one grade competing during each session.

Students qualified for the county competition by winning a series of class, school and district spelling competitions.

Cantrell said smaller school districts sent one winning student and one alternate student per grade level to the competition, while larger school districts like Hanford, Lemoore and Corcoran districts sent two winning students and two alternate students. Private and home-schooled students were also eligible to participate in the competition.

“Our spellers work so incredibly hard to get to the county level,” Cantrell said.

Jeff Frasieur once again returned as the Spell Master this year. Cantrell said he has been doing it for over 20 years.

Cantrell said each grade had phenomenal spellers, but the third graders had the longest session, spelling for over 68 rounds in a session that lasted around 3 ½ hours.

Cantrell said every speller in each grade level was given a certificate of participation, a medal and a treat bag for making it to the county competition.

In addition to those items, Cantrell said the first, second and third place winners from each grade were awarded trophies.

The winners from the fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade sessions will move on and represent Kings County at the state level.

Cantrell said this year was “extra special” because the Nguyen sisters, Hannah and Grace from Pioneer Middle School, both won their respective grade level competitions and will be competing with each other in the state’s junior high spelling bee.

The California State Elementary Spelling Bee Championship will take place May 12 in Stockton, while the California State Junior High Spelling Bee will take place May 5 in San Rafael.

As always, Cantrell said her favorite part was getting to see the sportsmanship among the spellers.

“To see them clapping and high-fiving each other as they would get their words right, or seeing spellers who had gotten out stay to congratulate the winners – it is always heartwarming,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said she is happy to see that the Kings County Spelling Bee is inspiring students to become better spellers, readers and writers, while also helping build their character as competitors.

“The Kings County Spelling Bee is such a tradition in our community and it is an honor to get to continue to put on this special event,” Cantrell said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com