Five local students competed in the 2021 Alaska State Spelling Bee late last month.

According to information from the Alaska Spelling Bee organization, 88 students in grades three through eight qualified for the state-level competition.

The bee's first place winner was Ishita Khiani, a seventh-grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School in Juneau.

The Ketchikan School District was represented by Thierry Oyedeji, a Houghtaling Elementary fourth-grader; Sarah Reynolds, a Fawn Mountain Elementary fifth-grader; Bella Wills, a Tongass School of Arts and Sciences fifth-grader; Alijhan Millendez, a Ketchikan Charter School fifth-grader; and Riley Saxton, a Point Higgins Elementary sixth-grader.

Those students all won their classroom-level and school-level spelling bees earlier this year, and then competed against each other in the district-wide bee in early March.

Due to COVID-19, the competitors in the statewide bee took the proctored tests online on March 23, and later received notice of how they placed via a phone call from bee officials.

Houghtaling student Thierry Oyedeji — who earned the top spot during the district-wide bee in early March — took 9th place at the state competition.

Oyedeji's mother, Renee Oyedeji, wrote to the Daily News that four other students received the same score as her son, and that the test included spelling and vocabulary questions.

Thierry Oyedeji wrote to the Daily News that he was initially upset after taking the test, because he thought he had done badly.

"I was just thinking on how to spell the words," he wrote. "I was very happy when I heard I tied for 9th place."  

Pt. Higgins fifth-grader Riley Saxton placed 21st in the bee, according to an email sent to the Daily News by Pt. Higgins librarian and teacher Lara Powers.

Saxton also wrote to the Daily News, explaining why he found the competition to be difficult this year.

"When I very first started I didn't think I would win the Point Higgins Spelling Bee," Saxton wrote in the email. "The state spelling bee was hard because the robot that pronounced the words was very difficult to understand. In all, it was super exciting to participate in."

 The Daily News did not receive information about the performance of the students from Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, Ketchikan Charter School or Fawn Mountain Elementary School by press time.