Mirror Lake student is a spelling sensation

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 12:48

Josh Saylor is an excellent student at Mirror Lake Middle School — but that doesn’t mean he’s not just a regular kid. When asked his favorite part about participating in the 2017 Alaska State Spelling Bee, Saylor had an answer any sixth-grader could relate to.

“One thing I like is I get to miss school for an entire day,” Saylor said during an interview at the school earlier this week.

Saylor wasn’t exactly playing hooky on Thursday, March 30, when he beat out 156 contestants to win the state spelling bee. Saylor was the only one of four contestants in the final round to spell his word — comarca — correctly.

“I was pretty excited,” he said of correctly spelling the word, which according to Merriam-Webster is “a territorial subdivision (as a district or circuit) of a state — used chiefly of administrative units of certain Latin-American nations.”

Saylor said he was a bit nervous when he heard his word, which was not included in a list given to spellers before the bee. But after asking its language of origin (Latin), he said he felt more confident.

“Some languages have certain letter sounds,” he explained.

For winning the state bee, Saylor got an invitation to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins May 30 in Washington, D.C.

Mirror Lake principal Alex Hagler said Saylor is one of the school’s best students.

“We are very proud of him,” she said.

Saylor is no stranger to spelling success. He’s won the school spelling bee two years in a row, and said he once tried to read the dictionary straight through — although that turned out to be less fun than it sounds.

“I got bored like halfway through,” he said.

This year, he said he practiced for about a week leading up to the competition by first reading the practice words and then having his parents quiz him.

Saylor said he wants to become a mechanical engineer when he grows up. He’s particularly fond of math, and said he took to spelling from an early age.

“My parents say I tend to pick things up very quickly,” he said.

When he’s not spelling, Saylor said he enjoys skiing, playing in the school band and playing video games. He’s “pretty nervous” about the national bee, but said he’s got as good a chance as anyone else. He’s also looking forward to getting to see the nation’s capital and participating in “Bee Week,” which includes tours of famous sites and opportunities to meet other spellers.

“I think it should be fun,” he said.

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