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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 26, 2006

After 20 rounds, 8th-grader stays Big Island champ

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

KEA'AU, Hawai'i Spelling bee veteran Teagan Nakamoto survived 20 rounds of the Hawai'i District Spelling Bee yesterday to emerge as the island's top speller for the second straight year.

Nakamoto, a 13-year-old Ko-nawaena Middle School eighth-grader, clinched his win by spelling "coyote" correctly in the 19th round, and "interim" in the 20th, in one of the longest competitions in recent years.

Runner-up Katie Torigoe, 11, had no trouble with "hexagonal" or "bereavement," but finally stumbled on "semantics."

It was the first islandwide spelling competition for the sixth-grade Waiakea Intermediate Middle School student, she said.

Both spellers advance to The Honolulu Advertiser's 21st Hawai'i State Spelling Bee on March 26. The state champion will be sent to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 31 to June 1, in Washington, D.C.

The spelling competition yesterday at the Kamehameha Schools Hawai'i campus in Kea'au featured 24 competitors in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades from 14 Big Island public and private schools.

Each Hawai'i state finalist will receive gifts from Sears, Island Heritage, Consolidated Theatres and Enjoy Snacks. Travel for Neighbor Island participants will be provided by Aloha Airlines.

The state champion will win an expenses-paid trip for two to Washington and a $100 U.S. savings bond from Jay Sugarman. Merriam-Webster is donating a Third New International Dictionary to the winner and a Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, to the runner-up.

Other prize sponsors include Radio Shack, Dede and James Sutherland, the Hawai'i Court Reporters and Captioners Association, and the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.