MOHAVE COUNTY – Mohave County will crown its 2024 spelling bee champion Friday night, Jan. 26. Some 27 fourth through eighth graders have qualified for the competition by winning their elementary school spelling bees to advance to the county finals.

2023 champion Ethan Knudson from Colorado City, now an eighth grader, is back to defend his title representing the Masada Charter School. Knudson participated three consecutive years before claiming the title last year when he correctly spelled “lasconic.”

“That kid is amazing,” said Mohave County School Superintendent Mike File. He considers Knudson to be the favorite in what will be File’s 40th and final county spelling bee.

File will retire at the end of the year, with a dozen bees under his belt as Mt. Tipton principal and 28 years more as superintendent.

“One of the things about being at the spelling bee and watching these young folks is how amazing it is the words that they process,” File said. “Some of them I can’t even pronounce and they’re spelling them.”

Valentine Elementary School Superintendent and Principal Cliff Angle has served as county bee pronouncer for a decade. He also is the speller for the state competition scheduled in Phoenix March 16.

“If you really want to see the future of our nation right at work, here’s a little snapshot of the kinds of kids who are probably going to be in leadership roles at some point,” Angle said. He said the bees sometimes offer tense and dramatic moments, and championship glee.

“They just beam. There’s the thrill of victory,” Angle said. “When the kids end up being declared the champion they’re just giddy. Some of them literally shake with excitement.”

File said past bees have been completed in 90 minutes and some last four hours. The event is free and open to the public, starting at 6 p.m. at the Board of Supervisors auditorium at the County Administration building at 700 West Beale St. in downtown Kingman.

The bee can also be viewed live or in playback mode on the Mohave County Youtube channel.