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A Las Vegas speller is advancing to quarterfinals in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Updated May 30, 2023 - 3:28 pm

A Las Vegas student will advance to the quarterfinals Wednesday at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Sarina Ali, 12, successfully completed three rounds in the preliminaries Tuesday in National Harbor, Maryland.

“I’m ecstatic for Sarina and proud of the example she sets for all Nevada students,” said Melinda Brown, director for the Nevada State Spelling Bee.

Sarina — a seventh grader at the private Omar Haikal Islamic Academy — and fellow local speller Arren Feliciano are representing Nevada at the national spelling bee. They’re both sponsored by the Public Education Foundation.

In round one of the preliminaries — which focused on spelling — Sarina correctly spelled the word “bavardage,” which means small talk.

Sarina continued on to round two — which focused on word meaning — and gave the correct answer to the prompt: “A sedge is a type of…” Her answer was “grasslike herb.”

She correctly spelled “deposition” in round three.

Arren, 13, is a seventh grader at St. Viator Parish School, a private Catholic school. He was eliminated in round one after incorrectly spelling the word “Aten.”

St. Viator Principal Katie Kiss said in a statement the school was so proud of Arren and his representation of Las Vegas Catholic schools in the spelling bee.

“To reach that level of competition is such a tremendous achievement and we are so excited for him to be able to have that experience,” Kiss wrote.

Officials at Omar Haikal Islamic Academy didn’t respond to a request for comment about Sarina’s performance at the national bee.

In addition to their spelling abilities, Sarina and Arren are “both highly accomplished students in other areas as well,” Brown said.

Sarina wants to be a pediatric neurologist, according to her biography on the national spelling bee’s website.

Nevada’s history at the national bee

Sarina and Arren are among 231 students, ranging in age from 9 to 14, competing in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Arren won the Marietta Tiberti Memorial Spelling Bee, which is “extremely competitive,” Brown said, and that put him in a position to go to nationals.

The spelling bee is for Las Vegas Valley Catholic school students. The winner gets a one-year scholarship to Bishop Gorman High School.

Sarina competed in the Clark County charter and private school bee, and then won the Nevada State Spelling Bee in late March.

Nevada is among 20 U.S. states that has never had a champion in the nearly century-old national competition. The state has been represented since 1980.

But Nevada has produced strong competitors. For example, Dakota Jones came in fifth at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2011.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Sarina Ali’s status in the competition.

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

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