Home schooler wins state bee



BROOKLIN — A Brooklin boy, who is home-schooled, won the right to represent Maine in the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in National Harbor, Md. in May.

Brandon Aponte, 12, correctly spelled “crambo,” beating out last year’s champion, Nat Jordan, last Saturday at the Maine State Spelling Bee held at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Jordan is an eighth-grader from Cape Elizabeth Middle School.

“I was quite nervous because it could have gone either way,” Aponte said about the match, which went 47 rounds. “It was a hard competition, even harder than last year.”

Aponte felt shock and excitement when he realized he won.

“I felt shocked because I didn’t think I had gotten the word correct,” he said.

“Crambo,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a game in which one player gives a word or line of verse to be matched in rhyme by other players.

Aponte has never played “crambo” nor had he heard of it.

So how did he manage to spell “crambo” correctly?

“It was an educated guess,” Aponte conceded. “I’d never heard that word in my life.”

Aponte is the son of Juan and Louise Aponte of Brooklin.

Louise said her son is a “voracious studier.”

Aponte said he studied several hours every week to prepare for the spelling bee.

“I practiced finding regular words and words they used in the past,” he said. “Also I found random words from the computer and random lists.”

Of roughly 3,000 words Aponte studied, only one of those words was one he was asked to spell in the competition.

That word was “viscount,” which is a title for a British nobleman who ranks above a baron but below an earl, according to Merriam-Webster.

Aponte has not begun preparing for the national bee just yet. He competes in the state geography bee Friday. After that, he will resume word study.

“I think I’ll learn words from recommended lists and previous lists,” Aponte said. “There are so many words to study.”

Aponte will have his words cut out for him at the national championship.

Last year’s national spelling bee champion won by correctly spelling “guetapens.” That’s a fancy way of saying “snare” or “trap.”

The championship words seem to be getting more difficult as time goes by.

Consider “interning,” which was 1936’s winning word or 1940’s, “therapy” or 1984’s “luge.”

Jumping to the turn of the century, there was “autochthonous” in 2004, “ursprache” in 2006 “cymotrichous,” in 2011.

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Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American