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by Anne Berleant
Squaring off against 27 top middle school spellers, Brandon Aponte, a home-schooled 12-year-old from Brooklin, took top honors at the Hancock County Spelling Bee, held on February 11 at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School.
The championship word? “Amenable,” the 13th word he spelled correctly, while students from 16 area schools stumbled on words like “obstinant,” “gristle” and “kitsch.” Arlena Tolmasoff of Bucksport came in second, after going head-to-head with Aponte for two rounds.
“There was more competition this year,” Aponte said, “but I thought I had a pretty good chance.”
Aponte’s victory is a repeat of his 2012 win; for the second time, he will head to Portland for the state bee, to be held on March 30.
“I think the county bee is more stressful for me,” he said. “When I make it to the state [bee], I feel like I’ve achieved my goal.”
That said, Aponte hopes to finish one place higher than last year, when he came in second.
“I want to try and win this year,” Aponte said. His plan? To study words off the list of recommended words—which number 1,200 for the county bee, and more for the state. “Last year they went off the list and I wasn’t prepared.”
Louise Aponte, Brandon’s mother, interested Brandon in competing last year, after she and other area homeschool parents formed a club that allowed them to hold a qualifying bee.
“From my perspective, it’s harder to be a parent,” Louise Aponte said. “You sit there and think, let him just get the first word right…and then all of a sudden, boom, it’s over.”