Upper Peninsula Spelling Bee Finals: Sault Ste. Marie fifth-grader wins

Above, Moderator Jerry Carnes, right, explains the rules to the four U.P. Regional Spelling Bee finalists (from left) fifth-grade student Christopher Kiekhaefer from St. Mary’s School in Sault Ste. Marie, eighth-grade student Zander Worm from Houghton Middle School, seventh-grade student Leah Birkley from Houghton Middle School, and sixth-grade student Amelia Siodlak from Iron Mountain Central School.

NEGAUNEE — Christopher Kiekhaefer, a fifth-grade student at St. Mary’s School in Sault Ste Marie was the last speller standing during the Upper Peninsula Spelling Bee Finals at the Negaunee High School Auditorium on Wednesday.

Kiekhaefer won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 90th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will take place from May 28 through June 4.

Kiekhaefer bested two time U.P. Regional Spelling Bee champion, Houghton Middle School eighth-grader Zander Worm.

“It’s cool,” Kiekhaefer said when asked about winning the top spot. “I worked pretty hard.”

The competition began at 12:30 p.m., with 55 fifth- through eighth-grade students challenging peers at their own grade level from more than a dozen U.P. schools.

Fifth and sixth grades competed in Westwood High School’s Auditorium, and seventh and eighth grades faced off in the Negaunee High School Auditorium. One winner from each grade level contest competed in the finals at 3 p.m.

Worm finished in second place. Amelia Siodlak, a sixth-grader from Iron Mountain Central School, took third place. Leah Birkley, a seventh-grader from Houghton Middle School, took fourth place.

Kiekhaefer said regular preparation for the competition made him feel confident about it.

“Me and my mom practiced, half of the whole entire list every day, and some days I would do the whole entire list,” Kiekhaefer said.

Scripps recommends children competing in a classroom, grade level or school level spelling bee study 100 words for their grade level.

Children competing in a district, county, city or regional state bee should master from 450 to more than 1,100 words.

Spelling Bee moderator Jerry Carnes said preparing for the competition is more than just spelling words on a list.

“The kids that enter the spelling bee — they are willing to go the extra mile and give the extra effort,” Carnes said. “These kids will do well throughout life, and will do what they need to do to succeed in life.”

More than 11 million students nationwide participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee each year, according to the Scripps website.