Two-week countdown to state spelling bee

Southern peninsula students are lining up for the 2013 state spelling bee to be held in Anchorage March 1. Competition at area schools has identified the following spellers who will participate in the state event that takes place at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage:
* Chapman School: Jacob “Jake” Roberts, grade 8; alternate Andy Nelson, grade 3.
* Homer Middle School: Audrey Russell, grade 8; alternate Kira Hamilton, grade 8;
* McNeil Canyon Elementary School: Summer McGuire, grade 6; alternate Tucker Weston, grade 6;
* Susan B. English School: Sage Stanish, grade 7; alternate Ariana Waterbury, grade 7.
* West Homer Elementary School: Morgan Young, grade 6; alternate Dakota Harris, grade 6.
As West Homer’s alternate, Dakota has already stepped into the spotlight. He has been hard at work preparing to represent the school on March 1 after it became known Morgan would not be attending.
At Chapman, the third-graders put up a strong battle to represent the Anchor Point school. In addition to Andy being the alternate for the state competition, his classmate, Myah Monicken, took third place in the school spelling bee. The competition included 15 students, with three from third grade, three from fourth grade, two from fifth grade, two from sixth grade, three from seventh grade and two from eighth grade.
“The group of third-graders took it very seriously and studied hard,” said teacher and Chapman’s spelling bee coordinator Kim Johnson. “They attended the practice sessions during lunch and recess and also had great parent support. These kids have a great work ethic for all academic areas. They excel in all subjects.”
From her observation of the dedicated third-graders, Johnson had this advice for spellers: “It doesn’t matter your age, but what you put into being successful that matters.”
Andy exemplified that advice last year when he not only became the school’s first second-grader to compete in the school spelling bee, but, as this year, came in second to Jake.
“Maybe next year will be (Andy’s) year with Jake graduating this year,” said Johnson.
At Susan B. English, Sage appears to be on a winning streak. He also was a winner in the school’s recent geography bee sponsored by National Geographic.
This will be a repeat performance on the state stage for Audrey Russell of Homer Middle School. In 2012, the eighth-grader took second place statewide. In 2011, she took fifth-place. The year before that she finished in 15th place.
“(Spelling) is her favorite sport,” is how her mother, Amy Russell, described Audrey’s love of spelling following the 2012 competition.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t nervous about the March 1 competition in Anchorage, however.
“This is my last chance. If I don’t make it this time, I’ll be too old,” said Audrey.
To prepare, Audrey is doubling up on her studying with the help of her mom and her friend, Celia Quinn. She pulls words from the Merriam-Webster dictionary and has created a set of study cards with words ranging from the simple to those in Japanese, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Latin and other foreign languages that are used in the English language. The hardest word she’s encountered in her spelling bee experience is “Nietzschean,” an adjective relating to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
Not relying solely on her spelling know-how, Audrey has some good-luck items that she’ll take with her to Anchorage: her “biggest, most extravagant jewelry. Some big, gawdy earrings.”
Her advice for other spellers?
“Just study,” said Audrey.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at