Minuscule. Hydroponic. Spoonerism. These and over 100 other words of escalating difficulty were posed before participants at the 2015 Blatchley Middle School Spelling Bee. Thirty-three competed before a live audience of teachers and parents yesterday (Wednesday, January 14th) at Kettleson Memorial Library’s Stratton location.
Abigail Fitzgibbon competed in the Alaska State Spelling Bee last year, after winner Kyle Vidad elected not to make the trip. She won, making her Sitka’s first ever state champion. I got a chance to speak with Abigail, who was wearing her shirt from last year’s Scripp’s National Spelling Bee.
EK: How are you feeling right now?
Abigail Fitzgibbon: Mmm…you know, slightly nervous as usual. Slightly hot, it’s kind of hot up here.
The students are waiting in a line along the upper balcony of the library. It’s a mish-mash of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Some are doling out high fives to each other. Others are staring into their hands.
Student: I feel like I’m in the hunger games. Going for my death sentence.
Abigail, for her part, seems focused. When asked what her favorite word was these days, she said, “I like the word bibliophile because it means lover of books and as anyone who knows me can tell you, that defines me.”
The contest began with a few softballs, pitched by pronouncer Rob Woolsey.
RW: Lucas, your word is farmer.
Lucas Ethridge: Farmer. F-A-R-M-E-R. Farmer.
RW: That is correct (applause)
And the bibliophiles like Abigail definitely seem to have a competitive edge. Words include such puzzlers as “lozenge,” “hydroponic,” and “anathema.”Abigail put up a flawless performance, but ultimately missteped on the word wherewithal.
The contest ultimately comes down to two. 7th grader Emily Melnick and 8th grader Braydon Massey-Jones. The winner will need to spell two words in a row correctly. The final two contestants tussled back and forth for the victory:
Braydon: anathema (incorrect)
Emily: eschew (incorrect)
Emily: gaff (incorrect)
Braydon: epicurean (incorrect)
Emily: centenary (incorrect)
After matching point for point, Braydon clinches it.
RW: At night, everyone keeps an eye on Jamie. The family noctambulist.
BMJ: Noctambulist. N-O-C-T-A-M-B-U-L-I-S-T. Noctambulist.
RW: We have a winner! (Applause)
Braydon is no stranger to spelling victories. He won at his old school in Craig and went to state in 6th grade. He said you can’t really cram for a Bee. A lot of it comes from a sincere love of reading.
“My mom has taught me since I was young how to spell,” said Braydon. “I’ve read from a very young age.”
Braydon’s mom, Mindy Barry, said that her son knew his states and capitals before Kindergarten. “A lot of it comes natural to him and he’s just a reader. All the time – he’s into reading and learning and really trying to find any information that he possibly can get his hands on.”
As Braydon prepares for the state spelling bee next month, he says his goal is to make it into the top 30. 7th grader Emily Melnick was the runner up and 6th grader Cole Lewin was the second runner up.