In the end, it was "pachyderm" that decided the Juneau School District's spelling bee Tuesday night at the Harborview Elementary library.
Cate Ross, a Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School eighth-grader, figured out how to spell the Greek-derived word for certain large, thick-skinned animals, and she followed it up by correctly spelling "ruminate."
She wasn't sure about "pachyderm" but knew that "ch" often is pronounced like a "k."
Dzantik'i Heeni eighth-grader Curtis Mangusso, tripped up by the lumbering word, placed second after correctly spelling "cavalcade," "isobar," "mimic," "barrel" and "magnitude."
Ross and possibly Mangusso will go on to the state bee at the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage on April 22-23. Sue Baxter, the Harborview teacher who organized the district's bee, said she would check whether the sponsoring Anchorage Daily News will allow more than one student to participate.
The bee is part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, sponsored by the newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps Co. and several hundred local sponsors.
Hanging in with the big kids until the final round was Nick Williams, a Glacier Valley Elementary fifth-grader. He correctly spelled "confidence," "bushels," "vertical" and "ounce," but missed "elocution."
"My job is to make sure you're all breathing," Gastineau Elementary teacher Barbara Mitchell, who read the words to the contestants, told the kids before the bee began.
To some degree, a spelling bee is the luck of the draw. One kid gets "remember," another "insomnia."
Six of the 16 contestants had been in the district bee before. That means they placed first or second at their elementary or middle school. Students volunteer to participate.
Cate Ross said she practiced by quizzing her younger sister, Maggie, also in the bee, using lists from former contests.
"I just thought about it a lot," Cate said afterward. "I'd be in bed. 'Oh, the spelling bee's tomorrow, I have to practice words.' "
Cate said she likes reading and that helped.
"It's like we don't have cable TV, so it's like TV for me, and it's better for my brain," she said.
Curtis, on the other hand, nonchalanted it. That's an adjective used as a verb. He placed second in the district bee when he was in sixth grade and fourth last school year.
Was it nerve-racking?
"Not really," Curtis said.
How did he prepare?
"I don't," Curtis said. "I never study or anything. I'm good at spelling."
Read a lot then?
What Curtis really wanted from the bee was to go to Anchorage to ski.
"More than anything, that's what I wanted to do," he said.
Also participating were Spencer Lunda, Samantha Alex, Siara Kelly, Nicole Roldan, Liam Greeson, Stephanie Tripp, Justin Brooks, Colton Welch, Erin Burnham, Miranda Etheridge, Emilia Siefken and Ryan Doogan.