West Junior High student advances to national spelling bee

Eighth-grader Christian Ackmann won the Columbia Daily Tribune Regional Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word "cybernetics."
Thursday, March 13, 2008 | 8:17 p.m. CDT; updated 3:17 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This story was updated to clarify the circumstances regarding Benjamin Anderson's appeal. An earlier version mischaracterized who pronounced the word.

COLUMBIA — Cybernetics.

According to the Webster’s New World College Dictionary, it is a noun meaning “the science dealing with the comparative study of human control systems... and complex electronic systems.”


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Spelling it correctly was also the only thing between Christian Ackmann, an eighth-grader at West Junior High, and the championship of the Columbia Regional Spelling Bee on Thursday at the Christian Fellowship Church.

After he was the only speller to spell his word correctly in round 12, Ackmann had to spell the “championship word” correctly to win the bee.

After asking for the language of origin and definition of cybernetics and spelling it several times with his finger on the back of his name card, Ackmann methodically said each letter correctly to win the title.

Since he had never spelled cybernetics before, Ackmann broke the word into parts.

“Cyber is like cyberspace. I have seen that I guess on TV before,” Ackmann said. “And netics I was thinking kinetics.”

Ackmann will now advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held May 25-31 in Washington D.C. Ackmann said that coming into the regional competition, he had no idea that the winner would go straight to the national bee.

“That’s just amazing,” Ackmann said. “I didn’t even know that was where I was going if I won this thing.”

In addition to the trip to the national bee, Ackmann won a dictionary, an umbrella, a polo shirt, a backpack, a certificate, a bunch of black and yellow balloons and a hug from his mom, Diana Ackmann.

“I am ecstatic,” Diana Ackmann said. “I am absolutely thrilled. This is fabulous.”

Christian Ackmann said he was surprised by his performance in the regional bee, because he did not study at all before the competition. Christian said he studied for about three or four hours before the West Junior High spelling bee, which he won.

Christian Ackmann said he plans on putting his new dictionary to good use by studying hard for the national bee, where he will have the opportunity to appear on television on ESPN or ABC.

“I have seen the spelling bee on ESPN. They are pretty good. I don’t know if I am of that caliber,” Christian Ackmann said. “(I will study) a lot.”

It was Christian Ackmann’s second appearance in a regional spelling bee. His first appearance came in fifth grade when he and his family were living in Tulsa, Okla.

Sixty-six school level spelling bee winners were scheduled to compete in the regional bee, but only 61 spellers attended.Thirty-seven were eliminated in the first two rounds.

Benjamin Anderson, the speller from Grant Elementary, misspelled the word ‘tachometer’ in the second round, but was allowed back into the competition because of an appeal based on the pronunciation of the word. Anderson went on to finish tied for eighth place.

After round 8, there were three spellers remaining, but each of them missed his word in round 9. Christian Ackmann was the only one to spell his word correctly in round 10, but he missed his first chance at a championship word by misspelling ‘Xanadu’.

Mason Scott from Oakland Junior High and William Gilger from Otterville R-VI Elementary tied for second place.

A stuffed bumblebee sat on a chair facing the audience in front of the spellers during the competition. Several of the spellers autographed the stuffed bumblebee after the competition.

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