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Cupertino Girl Wins 1st-Ever CBS Bay Area Spelling Bee

by Bill Disbrow
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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Four hours of intense concentration ended Saturday afternoon when Neha Konakalla of Cupertino spelled “typographical” to win the first-ever CBS Bay Area Spelling Bee.

The event, co-hosted by KPIX 5 and KCBS radio, along with sponsors Comcast and Basis Independent Schools, was the regional bee final. Konakalla will now be sent to Washington D.C. in May to represent the Bay Area region in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

To get there she and her fellow competitors first had to beat out their classmates before advancing to a written semifinal round. Bay Area schools — representing San Francisco, Marin, Napa, Mendocino, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties — sent contestants to participate in that competition, held last month.

From that field of nearly 150, 49 advanced to Saturday’s final at the KPIX studios in San Francisco.

Beginning at 10 a.m. the field was whittled down to just two by 2 p.m. That’s when runner-up Rishi Kumar of Challenger School, Ardenwood stumbled, allowing Konakalla to nail the winning word.

The 14-year-old, who represents Sam H. Lawson Middle School in Cupertino, is a veteran of competitive spelling and represented the Bay Area in last year’s national competition.

“I think it’s a good thing… now I know what to study. I know how to study,” Konakalla said shortly after her victory.

She said she plans to pore over the dictionary prior to the Final at the end of May.

“I do hours a day,” she said. “Sometimes I wake up at 5 a.m. to study.”

That preparation allowed her to beat a strong field of spellers Saturday and should have her primed to make the Bay Area proud in Washington.

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