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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Bee finalists brush up for Sunday

 •  The 14 finalists competing

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

While most students are enjoying spring break hanging out with friends at the mall or beach, eighth-grader Nathaniel Salazar of Maui Waena Intermediate chooses to study.

"As long as I win, I don't care about spring break," said Salazar, referring the 18th annual Honolulu Advertiser State Spelling Bee on Sunday.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

Salazar is among the 14 finalists who will spend hours this week studying the bee's list of 3,700 words in preparation for the big event.

The contestants are seventh- and eighth-graders who placed first or second in the seven district bees: Honolulu, Central, Leeward and Windward on O'ahu, along with Kaua'i, Maui and Hawai'i.

18th annual Honolulu Advertiser State Spelling Bee

• Broadcast 5 p.m. Sunday on KFVE-TV (K5); rebroadcast 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

• Hosts are Advertiser columnist Lee Cataluna, who will serve as pronouncer, and sportscaster Jim Leahey, the master of ceremonies.

Salazar, who won the Maui bee with the correct spelling of "krakowiak" (a Polish folk dance), is one of two returning contestants from the state bee last year.

He clearly remembers how, in the 13th round last year, his chances for the title ended when he flubbed on the word "tutelage," which he said wasn't one of the words on his study lists.

So this year he isn't taking any chances.

"I'm studying the dictionary, too," he said.

Like Salazar, Kelli Rice, an eighth-grader at Wheeler Middle School, is also feeling the heat.

"It's kind of exciting, but I'm a little nervous because some people said they'll be watching me on TV," said Rice, who correctly spelled "titian" (a brownish orange) to win the Central O'ahu district bee.

The state bee will be broadcast Sunday on KFVE.

James Kurokawa, Salazar's coach and English teacher, advises the contestants to study their word lists and dictionaries carefully, and to pay attention to things like pronunciation, origin, definition and context.

"All those give you clues as to how to spell the words," Kurokawa said.

Jessica Palola, last year's state champ from the Central O'ahu district, knows what kind of pressure lies ahead for the student who proves victorious.

The Hanalani School student, now in the ninth grade, spelled "genealogical" correctly to win the state title in March 2002.

Palola advanced to the 75th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington in May and made it through the first round after correctly spelling "trichotillomania" (an abnormal desire to pull out one's hair). But she was eliminated in the second round, which for the first time last year consisted of a written spelling test.

"I was kind of intimidated," Palola said. "They (the other competitors) just looked really smart."

But the state and national spelling bees were great experiences, said Palola. "No matter how far they get, they're still winners by getting this far in the first place," she said of this year's contestants.

The 14 finalists will receive gifts from Sears, Island Heritage, Consolidated Theatres and Anderson News Co., along with spelling bee merchandise.

Supporting sponsors for this year's state competition are Island Heritage, Aloha Airlines and CompUSA.

The State Spelling Bee champion also wins an expenses-paid trip

to Washington, to compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in May; a Webster's Third New International Dictionary; a $200 Sears merchandise certificate; a $100 U.S. savings bond from Jay Sugarman; a PDA hand-held computer from Radio Shack; a $100 cash award from Dede and James Sutherland; a Borders gift certificate from the Hawai'i Court Reporters and Captioners Association; and a gift basket from Island Heritage.

The champion's school will hold the perpetual Champion's Trophy for one year and also receive a computer, monitor and printer from CompUSA.

Travel for Neighbor Island participants is provided by Aloha Airlines.

Reach Zenaida Serrano Espanol at zespanol@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.

• • •

Here are the 14 finalists competing
Kaua'i District

• Stephanie Kawamura, Kapa'a Middle (1st)

• Santo Saldana, Kapa'a Middle (2nd)

Honolulu District

• Matthew Iguchi, Kawananakoa Middle (1st)

• Samantha Juntilla, St. Patrick (2nd)

Maui District

• Nathaniel Salazar, Maui Waena Inter. (1st)

• Jasmine Siefman, Kalama Inter. (2nd)

Leeward District

• Trisha Liu, Kapolei Middle (1st)

• Christian Tomas, Highlands Inter. (2nd)

Windward District

• Kainoa Vigil, St. Mark Lutheran (1st)

• Stephen Bolger, St. John Vianney (2nd)

Hawai'i District

• Julia King, Hilo Intermediate (1st)

• Hannah Katibah, St. Joseph (2nd)

Central District

• Kelli Rice, Wheeler Middle (1st)

• Tim Tsai, ASSETS School (2nd)