Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Haines speller near top at bee


Aurora Alten-Huber of Haines, a champion in four school-wide spelling bees, tied for second place at the Alaska State Spelling Bee Tuesday after tripping on the words “lemma” and “licentiate.”

Alten-Huber, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Haines School, said she wasn’t too disappointed not to come out on top of the 142 students in the nine-hour competition in Anchorage. A victory would have brought a giant trophy and an expense-paid trip to compete in the national championship bee in Washington, D.C.

“That was good enough for me. I won a Kindle Fire, which is what I wanted… I know I would have sucked in D.C. D.C. is really hard and I don’t think that I’m that good a speller. And I’m sick and tired of spelling bees,” Alten-Huber said.

Alten-Huber had a chance to win the bee in the seventh round, when the number of contestants narrowed to seven. The six other spellers each missed their respective words and she correctly spelled “protean.” But “lemma,” the additional word she needed to spell correctly to win, was a stumper.

It is defined as a proposition, proved or assumed to be true, used to prove a theorem. “I’d never even heard of the word.” She spelled it “leima.”

Her miss moved the six other spellers back into the competition, and Alten-Huber was asked to spell the very next word, “licentiate,” meaning a person licensed to practice a specified profession. She missed it. “My mind was in a muddle,” she said.

Two students advanced to the final rounds by spelling “triregnum” and “spectrograph” correctly in the same round that dropped Alten-Huber and four others. Camden Armstrong of Rogers Park Elementary School in Anchorage won the bee on the word “repristinate,” meaning to restore something to its original condition.

Alten-Huber placed second in the bee by virtue of surviving the same number of rounds as the second-place finisher, said mom Helen Alten.

Alten-Huber said the state bee used a list of about 480 words students received in advance of the event, until the number of competitors dropped to about 20. Then the competition went “off-list.” She had also studied off-list words, including ones that were winning words in the national bee.

The words Alten-Huber spelled correctly included slaughter, liverwurst, zeitgeber, einkorn and langlauf.

Helen Alten sent Facebook messages for each round of action, and friends from Haines and the Lower 48 followed her posts and sent encouraging messages. Alten wrote that the drama in the seventh round was almost too much for son Brandt Alten-Huber, Aurora’s twin. “Mother, I can’t survive this. My heart is just beating,” Alten wrote.

Alten-Huber won the Haines School Spelling Bee twice and twice won school bees in West Virginia previous to her family’s move to Haines. The family celebrated Tuesday with ice cream, junk food and a movie.


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