First Coast Spelling Bee champ took long road to title

Samuel Evans, a middle school student representing Union County won the 2022 First Coast Spelling Bee. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sam Evans thought his final shot at competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee might have ended before it began.

“I just moved here from South Florida about five months ago. It’s a great place. I really like it,” the 8th grader said just minutes after winning the 2022 First Coast Spelling Bee.

Evans and his parents were heartbroken to learn their new home of St. Johns County had already conducted its spelling bee. That’s when the Evanses called News4JAX looking for help. The Local Station reached out to the other 13 local counties that had not yet crowned a county champion to see if they would allow the homeschooled student to take part in their bee.

14 local county spellilng be champions compete in the 2022 First Coast Spelling Bee.

Union County welcomed him with open arms. Evans won that county bee. His winning word was “Richter scale”. That led him to Friday’s First Coast Spelling Bee, hosted virtually by WJXT-Channel 4. The winner would qualify to represent Northeast Florida in the national finals.

“I’ve competed at regionals for a long time now. I just had fun this year,” Evans said.

The fun continued when he outlasted the 13 other local county champions to be crowned as the 2022 First Coast Spelling Bee champion, sending him to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. this May.

His winning word: inhabitants.

“I was just happy that I knew it,” Evans said.

Evans has been competing in spelling competitions for five years. As an 8th grader, this would be his last chance to qualify for the nationals, as the competition is for elementary and middle school students. “I’ve been wanting to go for a long, long time now. So, like, it’s just gonna be a great opportunity to just be there. Be around all those other spellers and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

2022 First Coast Spelling Bee Finalists

- Kaleb Hilliard

5th grade

Nassau Co.

- Alexander Murnahan

6th grade

Bradford Co.

- Addison Webb

8th grade

Suwannee Co.

- Cindy Kim

8th grade

Columbia Co.

- Samuel Evans

8th grade

Union Co.

- Spence Edelstein


Flagler Co.

- Kaitlynn Wilson

6th grade

Putnam Co.

- Jeevan George

5th grade

Alachua Co.

- Rena Reddish

7th grade

Clay Co.

- Marvin Mattair

8th grade

Madison Co.

- Ernest Quesada

7th grade

Duval Co.

- Deeksha Hariharan

6th grade

St. Johns Co.

- Kaylyn Murphy

6th grade

Hamilton Co.

- Dallas Norman

7th grade

Baker Co.