Top spellers selected for Northern Agency

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

SHIPROCK, Feb. 23, 2012

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Fourth-grader Philandra Nez from Red Mesa Elementary School received the honor of spelling the first word in the Northern Agency Spelling Bee Feb. 15 at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.

Unfortunately, Nez misspelled "pursuit" as "persuit" in Round 1 and was eliminated from the competition along with nine other students.

Making it to the second round were Nigel Sam from Bluff Elementary and Emma Mohs from Atsa Biyaazh Community School.

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Mohs came close to winning but misspelled the championship word "technician" as "tecnition" in Round 5.

A second shot came in Round 7 but she misspelled "emphasize" as "emphize."

Sam came close with "matrimony" but misspelled it as "matromony" in Round 9.

He won with "compromise" in Round 14, earning applause.

The fifth-grade competition almost had a winner by Round 2.

With 12 students eliminated in the first round, Courteney Yazzie from Red Mesa Elementary was the last speller standing and received "fluoride."

After spelling the word, she was named the winner but Head Judge Jeff Holtsoi then challenged Yazzie's spelling.

"She didn't spell that word correctly," Holtsoi said.

"Yes, she did" came the whispers from the audience.

Then the judges reviewed the audio recording and, yes, Yazzie had erred, saying "o" before "u" to spell the word as "flouride."

So the contestants returned to the stage for Round 2.

A couple of rounds later, Amari Jones from Bluff Elementary and Shayonna Begay from Atsa Biyaazh were left to compete for first place.

Jones won the round with "jambalaya" followed by "mortgage" to clinch the championship.

In the sixth-grade competition, some students paused before spelling to ask the pronouncer for the word's definition, origin, or use in a sentence.

Mariah Toledo from Atsa Biyaazh won with "confidence."

Determining a winner in seventh-grade division was easy with Kia Peshlakai from Atsa Biyaazh being the only student to correctly spell her word, "adobe," in Round 1.

Determining second place was a race between Mareo Redhouse from T'iis Naz Bas Community School and Frankie Moreno from Red Mesa Junior High.


Moreno prevailed with "chutney."

Like the seventh-grade division, only one eighth-grader, Cory Sagg, correctly spelled the Round 1 word and then clinched the win with "finale."

After the winners were named, the students enjoyed lunch at the Shiprock Boys and Girls Club.

Sitting with students from Red Mesa Elementary was one of the judges, Miss Teen Navajo Jerae Curtis.

"I loved all of it," Curtis said.

Fifth-graders Derrick Lameman and Angel Gonzales and fourth-graders Philandra Nez and Makota Lynch talked about the contest while eating their lunch.

"They would give me the word and if I didn't know it they would give me the definition," Gonzales said.

Fourth-grader Mandi Wheeler from T'iis Naz Bas said her favorite words to spell were "sushi," "community" and "tofu."

Wheeler was lunching with fifth-graders Darrian Rockwell and Ryann Hadley, and each one recapped practicing for the spelling bee.

Hadley said if a word was unfamiliar, she would look up the definition in the dictionary.

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