Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 9, 2017
Aponte captures spelling title
by Monique Labbe
What does it take to win the 2017 Hancock County Spelling Bee? For seventh grader Colin Aponte of Brooklin, it was six simple letters: f-r-e-s-c-o.
It has been a long road for Aponte to reach this milestone. Two years ago, he finished as the runner-up in the county bee, and last year, after a final round that needed an extra night of competition, he again finished in second place behind Syra Gutow, who would go on to compete at the national bee.
“After placing second for the past few years, I was starting to wonder if I could ever win, so I studied as hard as I could,” said Aponte. “[Syra] graduated last year, so I was hoping it would be my turn.”
With the win, Aponte is preparing for the state spelling bee in March, where he will be the sole representative from Hancock County. He has experienced the state bee competition three times before, as a spectator cheering on his brother Brandon, who made it to the national bee in 2013.
“All three times, it was down to him and another speller, and they would go back and forth for hours, and for over 90 rounds,” said Aponte. “I don’t know what to expect for me, but what I’m most looking forward to is having the opportunity to win and continue the tradition of having the state champion come from Hancock County.”
While Aponte is confident on the spelling bee stage, his parents, Juan and Louise, said the experience is nerve wracking.
“It never gets easier to watch because we know how much time Colin has put into studying and we would like it to pay off for him,” said Louise.
His preparation, he said, differs every year. “This year, I studied more words I didn’t know,” he said. “My grandmother would always call me and ask me if I knew how to spell certain words she heard or read during the day.”
With the state bee just over a month away, Aponte has the experience of watching his older brother compete at the national level in the back of his mind.
“When Brandon won the state bee and went to Nationals, we all went to D.C. with him as a family,” he said. “It was an amazing experience for him and for all of us, and it has definitely given me the incentive to try to get back there again.” The state bee is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the University of Southern Maine.