A fifth-grade Harborview Elementary School student took first place Wednesday night against 17 other district students in the district-wide spelling bee.
Cagney Ramirez will head to Anchorage in March to battle spelling wits against about 200 other Alaska students.
Two students from each elementary school in the district, along with the Montessori program and both middle schools were selected for the final district competition. Of the 18 students, one dropped out.
The 17 students — in grades 3-8 — spelled 85 words correctly and 16 incorrectly. The rules for the first eight rounds were that if you spelled a word incorrectly, you were eliminated.
Words started out relatively simply, and got progressively harder through the rounds. For example, words in round one included process, apart, careful, dinner, unless. Words in round seven included defiantly, altogether, jealousy, animation, and others.
At round nine there were four students remaining — River Reyes-Boyer, Ramirez, Isabella Bugayong and Peter Sidmore. Starting that round, if all of them misspelled a word then they all were still in the competition — basically repeating the round. If only one of them spelled a word correctly, that person would have to spell a second word correctly.
That’s actually what happened Wednesday night, as Ramirez, Reyes-Boyer and Sidmore faced off in the 10th round.
Ramirez spelled duress correctly, while disappearance and impenetrable were incorrectly spelled by the others. Ramirez then correctly spelled manifestation.
Reyes-Boyer and Sidmore placed second and third, respectively, in a run-off after the competition.
Ramirez said winning the competition made her happy.
“It’s because when I was little I used to be really bad at spelling,” she said. “My parents are pretty busy so I just found time to read the words to myself.”
The toughest word for Ramirez in the competition on Wednesday was “manifestation” — her final word.
Ramirez said her method of practicing was reading a lot of words. After reading each word she’d try to spell it. If she got it wrong she’d circle it and come back to it after she was done with the whole page.
Ramirez’s mother, Lorna Ramirez, said she was surprised to get a certificate from her daughter that said she was a spelling champion at Harborview.
“I was nervous,” Lorna said. “I didn’t teach her by her own. She said she was ok, that she was already done (with her homework). She divides her own time every day. She finishes homework first, play computer, watching T.V., but mostly she likes books.”
Lorna said she will be happy to go to the state competition in Anchorage with her daughter.
Dick Fagnant, retired Mendenhall River Community Schools teacher, helped coordinate the district-wide spelling bee — that and the individual school “bees.”
He said technically each student at the district-wide competition could qualify for the state spelling bee, however it’s too expensive so Juneau only sends it’s top student.
Fagnant said the same format is used in Anchorage — he attended it before when his daughter made it.
The student who takes first place in Anchorage gets to go to Washington, D.C. for the national competition.
The top two spellers at each school who participated Wednesday were Harborview: Cagney Ramirez, River Reyes-Boyer; Glacier Valley: Natalie Mauricio, Aivine Soakai; Mendenhall River: Alexander Kotlarov; Riverbend: Isaak Avenson, Charlene Zanoria; Auke Bay: Luke Strickler, Benjamin Ng; Gastineau: Joseph Roberto, Peter Sidmore; Floyd Dryden: Tristan Truax, Makelini Mausia; Dzantik’i Heeni: Isabella Bugayong, James Whitney; Montessori: Katherine Kane, Izzy Christenson.