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Ketchikan students compete in spelling bee: Houghtaling student Thierry Oyedeji wins event
Participants in the 2019 Ketchikan School District Scripps Spelling Bee finals Friday at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center were, from left, River Covell, Ella Stockhausen, Thierry Oyedeji, Eli Ordonez, Meg Miranda and Trevor Stacy. Oyedeji was the event winner. Staff photo by Danelle Landis

Daily News Staff Writer

Six Ketchikan School District Scripps Spelling Bee finalists lined up to pit their skills against some tough words Friday evening at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.

The competitors were River Covell, a fifth-grader at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences; Meg Miranda, a seventh-grader at Ketchikan Charter School; Eli Ordonez, a fifth-grader at Point Higgins Elementary School; Thierry Oyedeji, a third-grader at Houghtaling Elementary School; Trevor Stacy, a third-grader at Fawn Mountain Elementary School; and Ella Stockhausen, an eighth grader at Schoenbar Middle School.

Grace Parrott, the 2018 Ketchikan spelling bee champion, introduced the spellers and welcomed the attendees. In early 2018, she earned a top-30 spot at the Alaska state competition, and traveled to Washington, D.C., for the national competition.

Thierry Oyedeji was the final victor in the eighth round Friday, sailing through the final, winning word “beryllium” with seeming ease.

“I tried to get spelling in every day, to try to learn the words and practice them,’ Thierry said after the match, in between pictures being snapped by family, and hugs all around.

He added that he had actually practiced the word beryllium before the bee, which was on his spelling practice list that a teacher had provided.

Thierry said he always has liked to spell and to study. His favorite subjects at school are reading and science.

The most difficult part for him, he said, was simply getting up on stage to perform, describing it as “scary.”

An audience of about 50 people watched in tense silence as each student stood up to the microphone to spell the words offered by pronouncer Jack Finnegan.

Judges Pat Tully, Katie Parrott, Glen Thompson and Diane Gubatayao sat at a table to the side. After each contestant spelled a word, judges consulted their lists and agreed on whether a spelling was correct or not.

First up to the microphone was Meg Miranda, who correctly spelled “radar” and Thierry followed, nailing the spelling of “shiny.” Spellers continued to spell the entire first round of words correctly, with Trevor Stacy spelling “disco,” Eli Ordonez tackling “forest,” Ella Stockhausen with “swoosh” and River Covell spelling “tangled.”

Contestants confidently spelled words correctly round after round, before a few incorrect spellings narrowed the field down and Thierry surged ahead, spelling “fuchsia” correctly before landing the win with “beryllium.”

First runner-up was Ella Stockhausen, whose last correct word was “balustrades” and second runner-up was Meg Miranda, whose last correct word was “concertina.”

In fourth place was Eli Ordonez.

Tied for fifth/sixth place were River Covell and Trevor Stacy.

The crowd erupted in applause as spelling bee director Lori Ortiz lauded the students for their courage to compete. Pins and medals were distributed to the competitors as they lined up to face the audience.

Thierry now is eligible to compete at the March 19 competition in Anchorage. Competitors in Anchorage will be eligible to compete for the national title in Washington, D.C., in May.

Thierry had advice for kids who might be interested in entering a spelling bee, but were unsure if they’d do well.

“I would just say to them, it doesn’t matter, you can just practice, practice, practice. You just practice,” he advised.

Beyond spelling bee performances, Thierry had a broader message for other young people.

“I want them to know that you can do anything,” he said.