Blue Hill’s state spelling champ is D.C.-bound for national bee



Homeschooled eighth-grade student Colin Aponte of Blue Hill studies spelling bee words taped to the family fridge.
PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

BLUE HILL — Fresh from competing in the National Geography Bee in Washington, D.C., May 20-23, Colin Aponte had less than 48 hours to study at home before leaving again for D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I’ll make lists out of words I get wrong so I can review them,” said Colin, 13, looking at a list of words taped to the refrigerator on Friday.

Mother Louise Aponte quipped, “We call it the Fridge of Shame.”

The list includes “sorority” and “primordial” but also unimaginable words like “ghorkhar,” which Google says is a “wild ass of Northwestern India.”

Another head scratcher is “leggieramente,” which is a musical direction for a “light, delicate and brisk” style, according to Merriam-Webster.

“They sent out a list of 600 words,” Colin said. “After that, they could ask anything.”

Another wrinkle is a round of defining words.

“I have to prepare for the vocabulary words, which is new for me,” Colin said. “You need to know the meaning and the spelling.”

Louise said preparing for the spelling bee has been tough because Colin has devoted more time over the past few weeks to geography.

Colin won the Maine State Geography Bee in April.

The family traveled to D.C. on Sunday for the national spelling bee, which started with festivities that day and concludes on Friday, June 1. If you have ESPN, you can watch a broadcast. The final competition is  Thursday, May 31, at 8:30 p.m.

Colin won the Maine State Spelling Bee this spring by correctly spelling “crescendo.”

The student supplements the Scripps list by reviewing stacks of spiral-bound spelling books. Many of the books are hand-me-downs from older brother Brandon, who won the Maine State Bee in 2013 and went on to compete in the national bee that year.

Louise said when Brandon competed, there were 281 competitors.

Since then, the rules about who can compete in the bee have loosened. As a result, Colin will compete in a field of more than 500 other spellers.

People think that each state sends one spelling champion but that’s not true, Louise said. For example, the city of Bangor sends its own competitor, she said.

The competition is open to students from around the world.

Colin will try to study before the spelling rounds begin, but there are a lot of social activities hosted by Scripps.

“They keep them busy,” Louise said. “There’s a lot to do.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.