Aliyah Alpert’s name has become quite familiar to officials administering the county and state spelling bees.
The 9-year-old won the 74th Yavapai County Spelling Bee for the second year in a row, and she once again qualifies for the Arizona State Spelling Bee.
Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the State Spelling Bee scheduled for March 21 was postponed indefinitely.
Nevertheless, the diminutive fourth grader can proudly claim she remains the youngest contender to compete in the prestigious competition. And she’s been doing that since she was a second grader.
Aliyah out-spelled 32 competitors from throughout the county during the Feb. 21 competition in Camp Verde. Contestants ranged from second to eighth grade. They came from public school, charter school and home school environments.
She opened the 13th round by first spelling “prorogue,” a Latin word meaning to discontinue a session of parliament without dissolving it. She then spelled the winning word “pathos,” a Greek word that means an experience or representation evoking compassion or pity.
Frustrated she can’t compete in the state contest, Aliyah nevertheless views it with a sense of humor and irony. She said, “Yes, I am disappointed that the state spelling bee has been postponed.” But then she observed, “It does give me more time to study. I suppose the farther away it is, the more I can practice, so I think it’s for the best.”
During the past few months, Aliyah studied from the 4,000-word list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Conducted every year since 1925 except for 1943-45 during World War II, the National Spelling Bee brings the best spellers in the nation to Washington, D.C. The winner in 2019 received a cash prize of $50,000 plus several other significant prizes and scholarships.
In winning the 2020 Yavapai County competition, Aliyah received $300 and a personalized plaque.
Last year, she received the same awards. In addition, in 2019, the homeschooled Prescott girl placed fifth in the state. The year before, 2018, when she was in the second grade, she was runner-up in the county competition.
Parents Mark and Brenda Alpert expressed pride in both Aliyah and her twin brother Jacob, who shows exceptional talent in music. “We’re proud of both Aliyah and Jacob because they are willing to work hard toward their goals — albeit, with a bit of encouragement from mom and dad.”
Both Aliyah and Jacob play musical instruments and have performed in country and bluegrass musical competitions, including the Payson Fiddle Contest.
The county spelling competition lasted 13 rounds and 155 words, with each round presenting more difficult words.
Others spellers who placed in the county competition were as follows: second place, Aiden Rose, an eighth grader from Oak Creek School, $200; Adam LaBaido, a seventh grader from Basis School Prescott, $150; and Rebecca Bond, a homeschooled eighth grader in Prescott, $100.
County Superintendent of Schools Tim Carter, who administers the annual spelling bee, said of Aliyah, “It was so gratifying to see her return this year — her third. For her to win it as a third grader was remarkable. To win again this year — just exceptional.”
Carter praised the Prescott Sunrise Lions Club for its sponsorship of the competition. He also thanked Home Depot of Prescott, Taco Bell of Prescott Valley, and Fastenal of Prescott Valley for their donations.
He expressed appreciation to Yavapai College professor Tara O’Neill for her service as the word pronouncer, and to Kellie Burris, Karen Otis and Ray Newton, all Quad City residents, for serving as judges.
Photo: Winner of the 2020 Yavapai County Spelling Bee was home-schooled fourth grader Alijah Alperts from Prescott (far left). Others who placed were (l to r) Aiden Rose, second; Adam LaBaido, third; and Rebecca Bond, fourth.