Anchorage teen wins state spelling bee

Posted: Sunday, April 01, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A 13-year-old Anchorage girl won the Alaska State Spelling Bee, by correctly spelling ''moulage.''

As state spelling champion, Jean Falconer will head to Washington in May to compete in the annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

Falconer's moment of glory came Friday, after she correctly spelled ''Scopolamine'' and went on to ''moulage,'' which means an impression, as of a tire mark or tooth print, made for use as evidence in a criminal investigation.

The last 30 minutes of the bee were intense, with two local teens going head-to-head over words like vinaceous, Jacobin, arachnophagous, patten, ephemerid and jurimetrician, once their competition had been eliminated. Kelly McCarthy of Gruening Middle School kept up with Falconer before both started to stumble over apterygote, metonymy, dansant. Eventually, ''cabecera'' -- the head village among a group of towns in Latin countries -- was McCarthy's downfall, giving her rival the chance to spell two words correctly and win in her third year competing in the spelling bee.

Falconer, a student at Hanshew Middle School, came in second last year. So basked in the excitement of winning, her shamrock earrings picking up lights on the stage at the University of Alaska Anchorage's Wendy Williamson Auditorium. She was also wearing her lucky striped socks, her mother said.

Falconer is the daughter of Bruce and Sharon Falconer -- her dad is an attorney and her mother is studying social work at UAA. She's a triplet -- her brothers are Scott and Neal Falconer -- plays oboe in Anchorage Youth Symphony, and enjoys basketball and soccer. She also has 16-year-old sister, Evan.

To develop her alphabetic prowess, Falconer made herself a practice tape of the spelling words in the study booklet. She attributes her success to a lot of practice and reading.

Initially, 184 students won their school or district spelling bees to enter the state competition, sponsored by the Anchorage Daily News and connected with the national spelling bee.

The bee began Thursday with 179 students; 43 were eliminated in Round 1; and 84 were eliminated in Round 2. That left 52 spellers for the third round.

After Round 4 Friday morning, eight girls and three boys remained for Round 5. They represented Icy Bay, Nome, Talkeetna and the Anchorage area, and were winnowed to four finalists: Falconer and McCarthy, and sixth-graders Aurora Landau of Anchorage Montessori School and Lindsay Hermans of Icy Bay School.

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