Three Stratford Students Place at the Bay Area Regional Spelling Bee

Congratulations to the three students from Stratford who placed in the Bay Area Spelling Bee on March 18! We had the chance to interview two of the winners, Rijul Jain, an eighth grade student from San Jose Middle School, and Vishaak Murali, a third grade student from Stratford School in Pleasanton.

Overall, how was your experience at the Regional Spelling Bee? Were you nervous? Excited?

Rijul: I was a little nervous and anxious to spell my word, but I became more relaxed as the bee progressed and I found myself in familiar territory.

Vishaak: I was partially nervous and also excited at both Spelling Bee that I participated in. I was nervous at the Regional Spelling Bee because there was only one other 3rd grader and the rest of the students were from higher grades. I was excited because I proudly represented Stratford and I got to be on television.

What was the toughest part of the competition?

Rijul: The toughest part for me was finding the right words to study from the massive source of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. The sheer size of the dictionary is difficult to overcome when searching for relevant words that seem eligible to be in the bee.

Vishaak: The toughest part of the competition for me was in Round 4 at the Regional Bee. This was challenging because they started asking really difficult and uncommon words.

How did you prepare for the competition?

Rijul: I used the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary and lists of English words from different languages. I ended up studying Latin and Greek medical roots and random words from the Unabridged Dictionary.

Vishaak: I prepared for the competition by reviewing the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I was able to study half way through the dictionary and I also studied another list provided by the National Spelling Bee. I knew all of those words from the National Spelling Bee list, so I concentrated on reviewing the dictionary instead.

How many years have you participated in the competition?

Rijul: I have won the school bee three times: in third, fifth, and eighth grade. I have passed the written bee in fifth and eighth grade, and participated in the CBS bee in those years as well.

Vishaak: This is my second year participating in the school Spelling Bee and my first time as the Pleasanton school champion.

Who is your favorite teacher at Stratford and why?

Rijul: Mrs. Sanchez is my favorite teacher because she helps me to further my proficiency in and understanding of Spanish. Also, she’s pretty funny.

Vishaak: My favorite teacher at Stratford is this year's teacher, Mrs. Pingali, because she challenges me to use my mind and she is also funny once in awhile. I have learned a lot this year and it's my best year yet at Stratford School.

How are you celebrating your achievement?

Rijul: I’ve been playing more video games than usual.  

Vishaak: My mom came to watch me as I competed in the school campus Spelling Bee and when I won, she was so proud of me! My dad was also excited and he bought me a video game (Harry Potter) as a reward. When I moved on to the Regional Spelling Bee, my parents came with me and watched the competition. We celebrated my accomplishment by having lunch at one of my favorite restaurants.

For a full list of the Spelling Bee winners, please visit: