Holy Family seventh-grader state spelling bee runner-up

Three months of studying and spelling words for 30 to 45 minutes a night paid off last weekend for Holy Family Catholic School seventh-grader Sam Cyphers.

Cyphers placed second in the Colorado State Spelling Bee on Saturday in Denver. He spelled words such as “pickelhaube” and “allargando” correctly to climb to the top, but fell short of first place when he misspelled “impetus” in the 16th round of the oral competition.

Cyphers won a district spelling bee in February to qualify for the state spelling bee. The 268 students that qualified statewide for Saturday’s bee took a written exam at the beginning of the state contest. The 36 students with the best scores on the 50-word exam moved on to the oral competition, which took more than four hours to decide a winner, Cyphers said.

The 13-year-old Fruita resident placed eighth in the state contest last year and hopes for continued success next year, the last year he’ll be eligible to compete.

“I was going to say I was going to retire, but after finishing so well, I think I’m going to pull a Brett Favre and come back,” Cyphers said.

Spelling runs in the family, Cyphers said. His father, Steve Cyphers, also grew up in a household where getting quizzed on hard-to-spell words was common.

Steve Cyphers is an English and language arts teacher at Holy Family and Sam’s spelling coach. Steve Cyphers also teaches nine students in a spelling class at Holy Family. He said his son’s second-place finish proves Western Slope students, who don’t often place in the top three at the bee, can succeed at the state level.

In an interesting twist, the last second-place finisher from the Western Slope at the state spelling bee also has ties to Holy Family. Chris Goldsworthy, who teaches at the school, placed second in the state in 1975 when he was living in Telluride.

Eight students from the Grand Valley competed at this year’s state spelling bee, including five students from Holy Family, two from East Middle School and one from Fruita Middle School.


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