'Gibbet' decides district bee
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
Judges reversed a controversial decision, the pronouncer was corrected for mispronouncing the word "crouton" (it sounded like "crouten"), and spellers unexpectedly dropped like tenpins in an early round during the Honolulu District Spelling Bee yesterday at Sacred Hearts Academy.
Kaneshiro and Stevenson Middle School eighth-grader Alex Chiya were the last two spellers standing after the sixth round. And since the day's two top spellers both qualified for The Honolulu Advertiser's 20th annual State Spelling Bee, set for March 13, the only thing left to decide was which one would get the district's first-place trophy.
In the final round, Chiya stumbled on "gibbet," the word for a gallows frame. He left out a "b" and later confessed he'd never heard the word before. Kaneshiro then correctly spelled "crucible" to win.
The competition of 32 public- and private- school spelling champions was characterized by moments of tension and humor. When one student was asked to spell "sterling," Sterling Higa, a Kawananakoa Middle School eighth-grader, delighted the audience by concealing his name tag.
After one nervous female student asked the pronouncer, state Rep. Lyla Berg, to use the word "stomach" in a sentence, the crowd laughed when Berg stated: "As the speller approached the microphone she felt butterflies in her stomach."
There was suspense. Eight spellers dropped out during one nine-word run of bad luck early in the third round. Twice the judges ruled that one student had misspelled the word "prowess," only to change their minds when the decision was appealed and they watched a video playback.
Kaneshiro said the competition wasn't as tough as she'd expected. Her secret weapon: She'd visualize the correct spelling, and then simply "read it off" in her mind. Still, she admitted there was one word she was glad she didn't have to try:
"Gibbet," she said. She'd never heard of it before either.