Elkhorn seventh-grader Julie Fukunaga took first place in her division in this week's 14th Annual San Joaquin County Spelling Bee Championship, making her eligible to compete at the state level in the spring.
"I enjoyed competing and am grateful that everyone came to watch and support us," Fukunaga said.
On Wednesday, students in two age divisions — fourththrough sixth-grade and sevenththrough ninth-grade — and from throughout the county, participated in the county spelling bee held at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton.
Fukunaga received a $100 savings bond and plaque for first place. She lives in Lodi with her parents, Michael and Cham.
Two years ago, when she was a student at Vinewood Elementary, Julie took first place for her age division in the county's annual science fair with a project on multi-tasking.
The judges selected eight finalists in each age category and called them to be interviewed before making their final decision.
Cham Fukunaga said she and her husband are proud of their daughter's hard work. In addition to the science fair, she has competed in academic pentathlon and science olympiad, but her favorite is the spelling bee.
"It's her third time at the county spelling bee, so she really worked hard to be able to go to the state championship this year," Cham Fukunaga said.
Other spelling bee winners at Tuesday's event include Annamarie Gayla, a sixth-grader at Waverly Elementary in Linden, and Samuel Zelalem, a sixth-grader at Bella Vista Christian Academy, in the fourththrough sixth-grade division.
Both will move on to participate in the California State Elementary Spelling Bee Championship on April 16 at the County Office of Education.
Aditya Gupta, a ninth-grader at Tracy High School, took second in that division which included seventh-, eighthand ninth-grade competitors.
Both will participate in the California State Junior High Spelling Bee Competition on May 14 at Miller Creek School in San Rafael. The SJCOE Educational Foundation will pay the $350 entry fees.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@ lodinews.com.