Jacob Sajan is moving forward to the state spelling bee competition Saturday, March 19, after winning both the Deer Valley Unified School District’s bee and the regional bee earlier this year.
Jacob, 13, is an eighth grader at Highland Lakes High School. He has been participating in the spelling bee for a few years now but kept getting stuck at the school competition. This year, though, he is going all the way.
“I’ve been trying for this for a couple of years, but it was like a curse of something. For the past four years, I’ve always gotten second at the school level,” Jacob said. “But this year I finally got first and then I moved on to the district level.”
He said at the district competition, held Jan. 24, there were about 50 people from schools around Deer Valley. But, once he broke his curse and made it to district, he was then among the top eight finalists who were sent to regionals.
The regional competition was held Feb. 11, with Jacob seeing around 50 people in attendance there as well. He said everyone was up on a stage in front of the judges’ stand, the announcer and the audience and had to walk up to the mic at the front when it was time to spell out their word. Jacob placed first at regionals with the winning word “martinet.”
He has another force driving him to succeed, though — the desire to carry on his older brother’s legacy. Jacob said he first got introduced to the spelling bee when his older brother, Mathews Sajan, was competing.
“I would always coach him and quizzed him on the words he needed to study,” he explained. “I actually really liked doing that, so once I got to the age range, I wanted to do that, too.”
However, it seems that the “curse” affected both brothers, and Mathews got stopped at the state level.
“Only first place goes to nationals, and since my brother got second place, he actually didn’t get to progress,” Jacob said. “So I kind of want to avenge that, you know?”
Jacob said Mathews, now 21, was actually practicing for his MCAT during his district and regional competitions, but he will be there in person to cheer Jacob on at the state competition.
Already preparing for the next competition, Jacob said he spends about three to four hours in a given week studying, which he usually does on the weekends so he can focus on schoolwork during the week. His favorite subject in school is math, and he said he wants to be a computer programmer someday, making websites and games.
Outside of homework and practicing for the spelling bee, Jacob has a well-rounded list of hobbies and extracurriculars. He plays alto saxophone and recently got to play with the All State Band, where he was named the fifth best alto saxophone player in the States at the middle school level. In addition, he is involved in his school’s robotics club and got to attend a state competition for that as well. Jacob also has a black belt in taekwondo and participates in gymnastics.
The state spelling bee competition will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 19, at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix. If he places first, Jacob will then get to go to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C., on June 2.