Six Ketchikan students put their spelling skills to the test on Friday during the annual district spelling bee that, if won, could lead to the chance to compete in the national Scripps Spelling Bee later this year.
The event was held early Friday evening at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, and drew a small audience of parents, siblings, teachers and friends who had gathered in support of the competitors.
The event was hosted by the district spelling bee coordinator Lori Ortiz, with Jack Finnegan acting as the bee’s official pronouncer. A panel of judges included Ketchikan School District Superintendent Beth Lougee, District Finance Director Katie Parrott, Ketchikan School Board Member Diane Gubatayao and Ketchikan Public Library Director Pat Tully.
At the beginning of the spelling bee, Ortiz commended the competitors on their bravery for taking on the challenge of the district bee.
“These students are lovers of words,” Ortiz addressed the audience. “We look forward to their future studies and their careers. They are already scholars. Perhaps they will be our future leaders in medicine, science research, law, technology … the sky is the limit.”
She led the audience in a round of applause for the students before directing each competitor to take a numbered lanyard from Finnegan.
After the six students had each donned a lanyard, they arranged themselves in a row at the front of the room. After the students introduced themselves to the small audience, the first round of spelling began.
Each round consisted of 12 words.
The bee started when Finnegan called the first speller, Pt. Higgins Elementary School sixth-grader Evan Dash, to the microphone.
Dash kicked off the competition by correctly spelling the word “bingo.”
After Dash, Houghtaling Elementary School fourth-grader Thierry Oyedeji correctly spelled the word “inside.”
After Oyedeji, Tongass School of Arts and Sciences fifth-grader Daniel Tabb spelled “frozen.”
Trevor Stacy, a Fawn Mountain Elementary fourth-grader, succeeded in spelling “seal.”
Kaydence Kloxin, an eighth-grader at Schoenbar Middle School, followed with the spelling of “hotel.”
Ketchikan Charter School fifth-grader Aljhan Millendez successfully spelled “legend.”
Eliminations began halfway through the first round.
The first competitor to be eliminated was Dash.
The remaining five competitors moved into the second round, also of 12 words.
Before being eliminated in the early stages of the second round, Tabb correctly spelled “usual.”
Kloxin correctly spelled words such as “certain,” “peppermint,” “gnaw” and “foolishness” before being eliminated early in round three.
Stacy correctly spelled words including “burlap,” “rivalry,” “exploits,” “juncture” and “spleen” before his elimination in the third round.
Stacy's elimination left Millendez and Oyedeji as the last spellers standing.
Just one question shy of the end of round three, Millendez was eliminated. Throughout the competition, he had correctly spelled words such as “legend,” “forgive,” “sniffle,” “constellation,” “generation,” “turbulent,” “investigation” and “centuries.”
As the sole remaining speller, Oyedeji was given a final word. He was victorious, spelling “beatboxing” to seal the deal on his district win.
The fourth-grader now will be able to represent Ketchikan during the state spelling bee next month.
After Oyedeji was declared the district winner, the spellers were gathered again onstage and given medals and certificates. Oyedeji also won his school and district bees last year.
After the spelling bee, Oyedeji told the Daily News what he enjoyed most about spelling bees.
“I just like competing with other people, and it’s just really fun to me,” Oyedeji said.
Oyedeji remembered that his hardest word during last year’s bees was “recognition.”
During this year’s school-level bee at Houghtaling, he reported that the hardest word to spell was “transparencies.”
Oyedeji said that his final word, “beatboxing,” was the hardest to spell during Friday’s competition.
To other spelling bee competitors, Oyedeji said to “study really hard and go for it.”
Runner-up Aljhan Millendez didn’t make it to the district bee last year. This year, he won his school bee.
Millendez simply advises other hopeful competitors to study.
“I mostly look at the words, underline them, and then repeat them to myself multiple times until I have it down,” Millendez said about his own study habits.
The state spelling bee will be held on March 25 in Anchorage.
Winners of the state bee will advance to the national Scripps Spelling Bee competition later this school year.