weather icon Clear

12-year-old Las Vegas student eliminated in spelling bee quarterfinals

Updated May 31, 2023 - 10:36 pm

A 12-year-old Las Vegas student was eliminated in the quarterfinals Wednesday at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Sarina Ali — a seventh grader at the private Omar Haikal Islamic Academy — misspelled “toluene,” a colorless liquid, by one letter during round four of the competition.

Sarina previously cleared three rounds in the preliminaries Tuesday to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Laili Hudaifah, an employee at Omar Haikal Islamic Academy, said in a Wednesday email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the school couldn’t be more proud of Sarina.

“Sarina is a kindhearted, well liked, and avid reader, and studious students,” Hudaifah wrote, also noting that the seventh grader ranks top in her class.

“We applaud her family for supporting her in the Spelling Bee journey, and I hope they will have a good time cheering for Sarina,” Hudaifah wrote. “We are sure do from here! We will celebrate her accomplishment BIG time whenever we get back in session in August!”

Arren Feliciano, a 13-year-old seventh grader at St. Viator Parish School in Las Vegas, was also representing Nevada in the national spelling bee. He was eliminated Tuesday in round one of the preliminaries.

In total, 231 students ages 9 to 14 are participating in this year’s national competition. Quarterfinals and semifinals were held Wednesday, and the finals are scheduled for Thursday.

‘Like their Disneyland’

It’s the first time Arren, who lives in Henderson, has participated in spelling bees.

His mother, Rubi Feliciano, said Wednesday by phone from the competition that her son loves to read and she thinks that helps with his spelling abilities.

She also said Arren speaks a little bit of Tagalog, noting she and her husband are from the Philippines.

Arren described the experience of being on stage at the Scripps National Spelling Bee as “pretty nerve-racking,” but he also enjoyed being at the competition.

“There’s more love to doing it than pressure,” Rubi said.

Arren had a long wait before he spelled his word Tuesday, with dozens of children ahead of him. Rubi said her son was exhausted toward the end and was trying to mentally spell other competitors’ words.

In addition to spelling onstage, there are activities every day for the competitors such as crossword puzzles and sewing, Rubi said. Also, each speller has a book in which they collect signatures from their peers, and some exchange phone numbers, she said.

“It’s overwhelming being here and in a good sense, too,” she said. For children who love words and spelling, “it’s like their Disneyland.”

With one national competition now under his belt, Arren said he hopes to continue with spelling bees. “It’s really fun to be here,” he said.


Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.