Participants in the 2017 Georgia Spelling Bee hosted by the Georgia Association of Educators.
Photo: GAE Facebook page
Photo: GAE Facebook page

20 students compete to be Georgia’s top s-p-e-l-l-e-r

It’s that time of year: March Madness.

For 20 Georgia elementary and middle school students, this month is their championship. They are the state’s top spellers and will participate in this year’s Georgia Spelling Bee.

The annual state bee, sponsored by the Georgia Association of Educators, is set for Friday at Georgia State University. The students, ranging from fifth to eighth grades, are the winners and runners-up in the education association’s nine statewide districts and the Georgia Independent School Association.

Win Friday, and you’re crowned state champion, headed for the big dance: representing Georgia in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. May 28-June 3.

RELATED: 5-year-old is youngest to qualify in Scripps National Spelling Bee

"For 19 of these superb spellers, this will be the culmination of a journey begun over last summer,” said Richard McIntyre, GAE’s spelling bee committee chairman. “For one, it means a trip of a lifetime...”

The state champ also receives $1,000 (runner-up gets $500), along with paid expenses to the national bee.

Here are this year’s participants vying for their one shining moment:

District 1 (16 school systems including Bartow, Pauliding and Georgia School for the Deaf): 

  • Chloe Carter, 13, 7th grade, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County School System 
  • Brandon Webb, 11, 6th grade, Calhoun Middle School, Calhoun City School

District 2 (12 systems including Cherokee, Cobb and Marietta City): 

  • Sophie Fang, 10, 5th grade, Tritt Elementary School, Cobb County Schools 
  • Jahni Bhagat, 13, 8th grade, Danielle Middle School, Cobb County Schools

District 3 (12 systems including Gwinnett, Barrow and Buford City): 

  • Aya Salma Haddad, 13, 8th grade, Al Falah Academy, Gwinnett County Schools
  • Abhiram Kapaganty, 11, 5th grade, Burnette Elementary School, Gwinnett County Schools

District 4 (8 systems including Atlanta City, DeKalb and Fulton): 

  • Aditi Shankar, 12, 7th grade, Druid Hills Middle School, DeKalb County Schools
  • Matthew Spalding, 13, 7th grade, Haynes Bridge Middle School, Fulton County Schools

District 5 (10 systems including Clayton, Fayette and Henry): 

  • Jet Rawls, 13, 8th grade, Indian Creek Middle School, Newton County Schools
  •  Thurman A. Blake Jr., 14, 8th grade, Eddie White Academy, Clayton County Schools

District 6 (19 systems including Bibb, Houston and Troup): 

  • Krish Modi, 14, 8th grade, Upson-Lee Middle School, Thomaston-Upson Schools
  •  Rebecca Kenny, 13, 8th grade, Bonaire Middle School, Houston County Schools

District 7 (23 systems including Clarke, Hancock and Oconee): 

  • Vaibhav Mishra, 12, 7th grade, West Lauren Middle, Laurens County Schools
  •  Aylah Birks, 13, 8th grade, Twiggs County Middle, Twiggs County Schools

District 8 (31 systems including Appling, Chatham and Vidalia City): 

  • Gio Christian Ramos, 10, 5th grade, J.G. Smith Elementary, Chatham County Schools 
  • Griffin Lee, 12, 6th grade, Glynn Middle School, Glynn County Schools

District 9 (34 systems including Calhoun, Quitman and Valdosta City): 

  • Jon Liu, 12, 7th grade, Hahira Middle School, Lowndes County Schools 
  • Za’Miriya Sneed, 14, 8th grade, Thomas County Middle School, Thomas County Schools


  • Arul Selvakumar, 14, 8th grade, Fulton Science Academy, Fulton County 
  • Charlie Gandy, 11, 5th grade, Mt. Bethel Christian Academy, Fulton County

Here’s what the Georgia winner will face in Washington, D.C. Watch Georgia’s 2014 state spelling bee winner and Gwinnett County Schools student, Sumedh Garimella, compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee:

Sumedh Garimella at the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Georgia Association of Educators’ State Spelling Bee

11 a.m.

Friday, March 17

Georgia State University, Student Center Senate Ballroom

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