Brandon Aponte, the home-schooled 12-year-old who won the Maine State Spelling Bee in March, travelled to the Scripps National Bee in Maryland on Sunday, May 26. He was one of 281 spellers who qualified for the annual bee.
The first round was a computer test of 12 spelling words and 14 vocabulary words.
“They bring you into a special room for testing,” Aponte said. After he completed the test, judges quizzed him by asking him the definition of one of the 12 spelling words.
One word Brandon was tested on was “Ougadougou,” the capital city of Burkina Faso.
“Brandon knew how to spell [the word] from participating in the [Maine National] Geography Bee,” said Louise Aponte, Brandon’s mother.
On May 29, Aponte battled on stage in the second round, where he correctly spelled “sarsaparilla” and advanced to the third round. His next word was “bdelloid,” which means “like or relating to a leech,” according to Mirriam-Webstert Dictionary. Aponte spelled the word correctly.
Even though the audience was “at least 15 times” bigger than at the state bee, Aponte said he wasn’t fazed. “I don’t focus on the people, or the judges. I just picture the word on the wall.”
After the third round, the computer test scores were used to narrow down the 239 spellers left; Aponte came up four points shy of being among the 42 spellers who qualified for the semifinal round. He officially tied for 43rd place.
Aponte is grateful for the community support he received while preparing for the bee, he said, and for the welcome home signs on his lawn when he returned on June 2.
When asked if he plans to try and qualify for the national bee next year, he said. “Definitely. We’ll be there next year.”