Sister and brother Rebecca Aponte and Colin Aponte competed against each other in this year's Hancock County Spelling Bee. Colin won; Rebecca finished second. PHOTO BY JACK DODSON

Siblings finish first and second in county spelling bee



HANCOCK — Members of the Aponte family have pretty much reigned most years at the Hancock County Spelling Bee.

Even so, Advaith Nair was feeling confident.

“Vulnerable,” “plausible,” “teriyaki,” “omnipotent” — he’d spelled all of these words correctly. He was in the 10th round of the Hancock County Spelling Bee, and for four rounds, he’d been cruising along with three other students.

Advaith is a fifth-grader at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, where he’s been a student for about three months. He and his family moved here from Kansas City, Kan., in the fall.

To study for the event, he checked out Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, and relied on some technology.

“I just got on the laptop and looked at the word websites that my dad gave me,” he said after the event.

Advaith approached the microphone in the 11th round.

“Your word is ‘barrage,” the bee master told him.

That one got him. But afterward, he resolved to study more and get further next year.

Two of the three remaining students — Rebecca Aponte and Colin Aponte, brother and sister — lasted for another 26 rounds. The third-place student lasted until round 14. For 23 rounds, the Apontes spelled “kohlrabi,” “yamen,” “nachtmusik,” “olio,” “ocelot” and “mikado.”

Walking out at about the 26th round, Advaith said he didn’t expect them to wrap up any time soon.

“The words are going to run out,” he said, laughing.

In the end, it came down to “sustenance.” Fifth-grader Rebecca had spelled “kuchen” and “muishond” correctly in recent rounds, but in round 37, she got knocked out. Her brother spelled “lading” correctly to solidify his win.

“It was actually kind of scary. Rebecca’s a great speller,” Colin said after the event.

The pair are homeschooled in Blue Hill, and they enjoy spelling, so they practice it a lot with their mother. Their older brother was also keen on spelling; in 2013, he went to the National Spelling Bee.

“They’ve been hearing the words for years,” their father, Juan, said.

For Rebecca, because it came down to her and Colin for so many rounds, the event felt a bit like being at home practicing. Just with higher stakes.

“It’s like practicing on a stage with people watching,” she said.

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson has worked for The Ellsworth American since mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.