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South Pacific Academy's Michael Sun — is territory's top speller

The winner of the 2018 Samoa News Spelling Bee with major sponsor representative — McDonald's American Samoa — Michael Sun of SPA- 1st place, and Carol Tautolo-Samuelu, GM of operations for McDonald's American Samoa. [photo: Leua Aiono Frost]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — South Pacific Academy 8th grader Michael Sun is the territory's top speller, after winning the 24th Annual Samoa News Territorial Spelling Bee yesterday by correctly spelling "joyous" in a nail-biting competition that went 24 rounds and included participation by 31 elementary school students from private and public schools in Tutuila, Aunu'u, and Manu'a.

Master of Ceremonies and Samoa News general manager Robin Annesley-Dalton said the competition was so tough, that they ran out of words from the initial list and therefore, had to start using the additional words that were on stand-by.

The Spelling Bee, the second most watched annual program, according to KVZK-TV, was held in partnership with major sponsor McDonald's American Samoa and the Department of Education.

Second place honor went to Kristina Timoteo (8th grader from Tafuna Elementary); third place went to two students — Pitolua Sunia (6th grader from Leone Midkiff) and Hadrian Uili (5th grader from Alofau Elementary).

With his win, Sun will go on to represent American Samoa at the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee set to be held in Washington DC in May this year. The trip is paid in full — travel and accommodations — by the Territorial Bee's major sponsor McDonald's American Samoa for Sun and a chaperone.

In addition, it also puts South Pacific Academy in a tie with Laulii Elementary as first place with the most Spelling Bee winners: 4 each, followed by Manumalo Academy with 3; and Aua, Olomoana, Manulele Tausala, and Marist/St. Francis with 2 a piece.

Eighth graders overwhelmingly came out on top, winning 18 times. Girls however dominate the competition, winning 19 times (Debrina Su'a won back to back in 2015-16).

This year's Spelling Bee was a success, thanks to the generous donations from our sponsors, which included chairs & tables, food & drinks, kindles & covers, as well as cash — and a plethora of prizes  for the participants: Merriam-Webster (Webster's Third New International Dictionary), Encyclopedia Britannica, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, TekConnec Inc., Paradise Pizza, Pago Pago Trading Company, Krispy Krunchy Chicken, Skyview Inc., Pasefika Youth Project, and Vai's Flowers and Gifts.

Word pronouncers this year were: Tapaau Dr. Daniel Aga, director of the Office of Political Status; and Dana Love-Ili, teacher and resource specialist at Nu'uuli Vocational Technical HS.

Judges were Annesley Dalton; Fua Fuatagi, health and transportation coordinator for Congresswoman Aumua Amata's District Office; and Carol Tautolo-Samuelu, general manager of operations for McDonald's American Samoa, the Samoa News Bee's major sponsor.

Coordinating the students for the competition was Evelyn Lili'o-Satele, director of the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA), who has been with the Territorial Spelling Bee since its inception.

From Samoa News to all participants, sponsors, volunteers, viewers and the hardworking KVZK TV staff — fa'afetai, fa'afetai lava.