County awards top speller in virtual bee

The Sun-Gazette

Live Oak Middle School 8th grader Kleema Al-Ghazali is the 2021 Tulare County Spelling Bee champion

TULARE COUNTY – The lack of in-person instruction for more than a year hasn’t stopped a Tulare middle school student from bringing her ‘A’ game when it comes to the spelling bee.

Kleema Al-Ghazali, an eighth grader from Live Oak Middle School in Tulare, captured the Tulare County Spelling Championship March 24 in the 37th round of the competition. Kleema won the event by successfully spelling “cataphora,” a pronoun, word or phrase referring to another word later in a sentence. In other words, she, Kleema, beat out 19 finalists to take home the trophy.

This year’s competition was held virtually, attracting 65 participants, grades 4 to 8, in the preliminary rounds held March 11. The second place winner was Yong Lee, a seventh-grade student at Sycamore Valley Academy in Visalia. Natalia Morton, a fifth grader from Mission Valley Elementary in Tulare, placed third.

Kleema will compete in the virtual Scripps National Spelling Bee beginning in June. If she advances through the preliminary, quarterfinal, and semifinal virtual rounds, she will compete in the finals in Orlando, Florida, with the top 10 to 12 spellers in the nation. The Visalia Times-Delta is covering the cost of the Tulare County champion’s travel to the National Spelling Bee finals if she advances to the final round. If not, the newspaper will provide the local champion with a travel prize of $2,000 to use on a family vacation of her choice as part of its sponsorship of the event.

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