Alaskans eliminated in national spelling bee

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Irene Park of Anchorage made it to Round Two of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, but the dreaded written test knocked her out of the competition.

Irene, 12, a sixth-grader at Huffman Elementary School, was speller No. 2 of 250 when the bee opened Wednesday, right after an Alabama girl misspelled a word.

''So I was a little skittish,'' Irene told the Anchorage Daily News. ''But once I got up there I forgot about everything else and just spelled.''

She survived ''paragoge'' -- a noun meaning the addition of a letter or syllable to the end of a word.

Then came Round Two. The 175 teens and preteens who made it did their best to write 25 words read by a pronouncer. Each speller had 30 seconds to tackle the likes of ''thesmothete'' (a legislator), ''saprogenous'' (the results of putrefaction), and ''ananym'' (a name written backward for an alias).

Afterward, a phalanx of uniformed staffers distributed envelopes that held each speller's fate.

Irene held hers for a moment as others ripped and read. Relief spread across some faces. A few wept.

Irene didn't go in for big drama. She was out. Her father patted her back.

''This is a good experience for the future,'' said Chong Park, a mechanical engineer.

Alaska's other contestant, Coryn Pavelsky, 13, who just finished eighth grade at Randy Smith Middle School, went out in Round One, slipping on ''seguidilla,'' a Spanish stanza.

The contest concludes Thursday.

Irene's parents were both born in Korea. She and her sister are bilingual. Her father speaks English very well, although with an accent. He's clearly proud his daughter excels at the language he has struggled to learn.

Irene, he points out, won the state championship by going five rounds against Jean Falconer, a Hanshew Middle School eighth-grader who was last year's state champ.

She was one of the younger spellers at the nationals, and the competition was stiff, he noted. Several top-10 finishers from last year were back.

Irene plans to be a patent attorney, a goal influenced by her parents, he said. She'll also study bioengineering and computer science, he said.

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