PUHI — A pair of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School students — Johnray Salud and Michaela Alcaraz — will be representing Kaua‘i at the State Spelling Bee on O‘ahu.
Salud and Alcaraz earned the honor by finishing in first and second place, respectively, at the 2021 Kaua‘i Complex Area Spelling Bee sponsored by Kama‘aina Kids Friday evening at CKMS.
Following 16 grueling rounds of words, Alcaraz stumbled, “a-n-n-a-h-i-l-a-t-e,” on the announced “annihilate,” to open the round.
The misspell opened the door for Salud, who answered with deliberate and correct spellings of “napoleon” and “eruption” to lock up the 90-minute spell off, and trigger Sean Doi, state Department of Education Kaua‘i Area Complex district educational specialist, to introduce the new champion and runner-up.
“I was kinda nervous,” Salud said. “But my family helped me by testing me with words.”
Lucy Newton, a student from St. Theresa School, stumbled on “c-a-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e” (“calibrate”) in round 11 to set up the final five-round showdown between the two CKMS students, Newton finishing third.
Alcaraz and Salud exchanged correct spellings of words like “casualty,” “plague,” “pauper,” “maverick,” “dignify,” “abruptl,” and more until “annihilate” dropped Alcaraz into second.
“I’m happy and very excited,” Alcaraz said. “This was a change from our school bee, where I was first and Johnray finished second. I was a victim of my own bad habit of procrastinating. I only looked at the 4,000-word list yesterday. But I was pretty good with the early rounds.”
Earlier, the Kaua‘i District Bee opened to a field of eight finalists from four schools who were each allowed one guest to be in compliance with COVID-19 rules.
The audience followed social-distancing guidelines visibly marked out in the cafeteria, and the spell off was done live — not virtual — with Tai Kajiharta, a student from the digital media class at Kaua‘i High School, videoing the event as back up, and a record for the finalists’ families and judges that included Michael Depoe and Debbie Higashi.
Finalists included Isabella Salamey and Shane Wozney from Alaka‘i O Kaua‘i Public Charter School, Alcaraz and Salud from CKMS, Audrey Jones and Stefhanie Sambrano — both fourth-grade students — of Kilauea School, and Newton and Zoe Gray of St. Theresa School.
With the Kaua‘i district victories in hand, Salud and Alcaraz will be among the field at the State Spelling Bee, also sponsored by Kama‘aina Kids, at the New Hope Auditorium open on Sand Island March 5.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.