Paisley King listens to her word

Paisley King smiles as she listens to her word during Wednesday's District Spelling Bee Championship at Fawn Mountain Elementary. King, a fifth grader from Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, won the competition. Staff photo by Christopher Mullen

Tongass School of Arts and Sciences fifth grader Paisley King earned the district spelling bee title in a fast-paced competition held on the evening of Feb. 22 at Fawn Mountain Elementary School.
King faced six other competitors at the event: Schoenbar Middle School seventh-grader Thierry Oyedeji; Fast Track Home School fourth-grader Neysa Downing; Fawn Mountain fifth-grader Yeseul Jung; Houghtaling Elementary School sixth-grader MJ Balitao; Point Higgins Elementary School sixth-grader Alexis Nielson; and Ketchikan Charter School eighth-grader Kaden Aldrich.
Each competitor won their individual school spelling bees to be eligible for the district-wide event.
Jack Finnegan served as the event’s announcer. Fawn Mountain Principal Nicholas Higson, Schoenbar Dean of Students/Activities Coordinator Beth Sandefur and Ketchikan High School teacher Amber Junker served as judges. Fast Track teacher Zack Trudeau served as Bee coordinator.
After each student introduced themselves, the action started with Downing up first and each student taking turns in their numerical order.
Downing’s first word was “curly,” which she confidently spelled correctly.
The students spelled without a hitch until the unlucky 13th word caused a stumble for Nielson — “lousy.” The slight error of saying “a” rather than “o,” even when she tried to backtrack and replace the correct letter, knocked her out of the competition.
The students quickly and accurately knocked out more words rapid-fire, including “upbeat,” “everlasting,” and “overseas,” until Downing fell on spelling the word “easily,” forgetting the “a” in the word.
Aldrich was the next competitor to fall away, when he stumbled on the word “joggled,” and he chose a “g” instead of the “j.”
The remaining four students correctly steamrolled through 43 more words with nary a bump until the next word, “temperature,” stopped Balitao when she left the “a” out.
Jung was the next out, eight words later when adding an “e” after the “n” in “pistons.”
Four words later, Oyedeji was eliminated when he switched the “e” and the “i” in the word “feisty.”
King then secured her win by spelling the last word correctly: “serum.”
The bee concluded with applause, the awarding of lapel pins shaped like bees along with certificates and with the offering of large cookies for all.
Trudeau announced to the group that King would next be expected to complete an online test in advance of the state-level spelling bee.
“If she passes that test, she’ll then be one of the 25 selected to move on to state,” he said.
As King was receiving kudos from her family on their way out the door, she shared some of her secrets of success with the Daily News.
She prepared with “lots of practice,” she said. That involved studying the supplied words list with her friends from school, her parents and with her step-brother, she said.
She began preparing for her school’s spelling bee a few months ago.
King said that the most difficult part of preparing was simply, “not knowing how to spell the words.”
She said that she was “a little used to” speaking in front of an audience, but she added, “if I don’t really know it that well I’m like …”
She punctuated that thought with a mock terrified expression.
When asked what was fun about the competitions, she laughed and said, “dominating everyone,” then added that in truth, she just finds the competitions enjoyable.
This was King’s third year in spelling bee competitions. In her first one, she said she earned a second-place win.
King then offered her thanks to the people who had supported her while she prepared for the event.