After four hours and 47 rounds, Brandon Aponte, 12 years old and homeschooled in Brooklin, won the Maine State Spelling Bee in Portland on March 30, besting his second-place finish in 2012.
“By the time it was over, hardly anyone was there,” said Brandon’s mother, Louise.
The last hour of the bee saw Aponte dueling with last year’s champion, Nat Jordan, an eighth-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School.
“We must have gone through three or four championship words,” said Aponte. “I was very nervous.”
“It was like a tennis match,” his mother said.
“Crambo,” the winning word, is the name of a rhyming word game. “It was an educated guess,” said Aponte.
Aponte credits his performance to studying “off the lists”—the over 1,600 words recommended by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I knew it was going to be tough. [Jordan] was a really great opponent this year,” Aponte said. “I think I was better prepared this year because I was studying off the list words.”
Aponte will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28 to 30 against top student spellers from every state, including the winner from the Penobscot County bee.
“I’m still tired, a little shocked,” said Aponte. “I was literally praying for every single word.”
Aponte has a different bee this weekend—he won the homeschooler geography bee and qualified on the written test to compete in the state National Geographic Bee in Farmington.