Six students who won their school bees wait for the district competition to start. They are Neila Urquhart , Myra McAlister, Maddox Davis, Grace Parrott, Annabelle Moore and Trevor Dash. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

A Schoenbar Middle School eighth-grader is the Ketchikan School District’s spelling bee champion after a districtwide competition Wednesday morning.

It was a fast spelling bee. The whole event at Fawn Mountain Elementary School’s gymnasium took less than half an hour. But it was tense, especially for the six students sitting in the middle of the gym floor, waiting their turn at the microphone.

Emcee Jack Finnegan, standing, reads the rules before the start of the Ketchikan district spelling bee. Seated are the judges. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

Those six already had won their school’s spelling bee. This bee was a level up. The competitors were Fawn Mountain Elementary School sixth-grader Trevor Dash; Ketchikan Charter School sixth-grader Maddox Davis; Houghtaling Elementary School sixth-grader Myra McAlister; Point Higgins Elementary School fifth-grader Annabelle Moore; Schoenbar Middle School eighth-grader Grace Parrott; and fifth-grader Neila Urquhart from Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.

The first few rounds had relatively simple words, read by emcee Jack Finnegan.

“Pretend. Sometimes for fun, I pretend I am a dog. Pretend,” he said to Trevor Dash.

“Pretend. P-R-E-T-E-N-D. Pretend,” Trevor responded to applause from the otherwise quiet audience.

About 20 minutes into the bee, though the words got a little more difficult. The first stumble came with the word “chutney,” a sauce-type dish from India.

“Chutney. Dad made a new chicken dish with plum chutney sauce. Chutney,” Finnegan said.

“Can you say the word slowly, please?” Annabelle Moore asked.


“Chutney: C-h-u-c-k-n-e-y,” she spelled.

“I’m sorry, that’s incorrect,” Finnegan said.

The next word to stump a speller was “manicure.” Then it was “beige,” followed by “boysenberry” and “poinsettia.”   

Grace Parrott was the last speller standing. She won with the word Haversack. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

Soon, eighth-grader Grace Parrott was the last speller standing. She quickly worked through “macadamia,” and then had to spell another word correctly for the win.

“Your next word has its origins in German,” Finnegan said. “Haversack. She told her brother that her messenger bag looked like a haversack.”

“Haversack: H-A-V-E-R-S-A-C-K,” Grace spelled, followed by loud applause.

All six of finalists received certificates and a pin for winning their school bees. Grace is eligible to participate in the statewide spelling bee, which is March 29 in Anchorage.

Coordinator Lori Ortiz said they will explore the possibility of community grants to help Grace and her family with travel expenses. Ortiz noted that the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee was founded more than 90 years ago.   

The national Scripps bee is May 29 in Washington, D.C.