Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 8, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, February 8, 2018
Blue Hill homeschooler headed for Maine State Spelling Bee
How do you spell ‘champion?’
Eighth grader Colin Aponte and his sister, fifth grader Rebecca Aponte, went head-to-head for 22 rounds before Colin emerged as the winner.
by Anne Berleant
For the 26 winners and runners-up of their school spelling bees, with hands folded in laps and serious expressions, correctly spelling words like ‘vampire’ and ‘cruiser’ was the first order.
The fifth through eighth graders, representing 13 schools, including Blue Hill Consolidated School, The Bay School, Brooksville Elementary School, Downeast Homeschool Co-op and Penobscot Community School, competed in the Hancock County Spelling Bee at Hancock Village Grammar School February 1.
Nearly two hours in, Colin Aponte, a Blue Hill homeschooled eighth grader, emerged as a repeat champion after 37 rounds and one championship word, ‘lading.’
But first he had to surpass his little sister, fifth grader Rebecca Aponte.
“I was getting a little nervous at the end,” he said.
After six rounds, eight spellers were left on stage and the words were getting harder: ‘oolong’ and ‘parfait,’ ‘tomatillo’ and ‘isobar.’
“Dang it,” one young speller said after getting his word—‘buffalo’—wrong.
By round 15, it was Colin and Rebecca, competing word for word for nearly an hour, through 23 rounds, before Rebecca, who had correctly spelled words like ‘muishond’ and ‘roodebok,’ misspelled ‘sustenance.’
“It was brutal,” said their mother, Louise Aponte, adding, “It would have been more brutal had it gone the other way.”
Louise Aponte knows all about spelling bees: Her oldest son, John Bapst High School student Brandon Aponte, made it all the way to the National Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, as a seventh grader in 2013.
For Rebecca, the experience was “nerve wracking but it was also really exciting,” she said. “I’ve been watching these spelling bees since I was 5.”
In 2017, Colin Aponte placed second in a three-way tie at the Maine State Spelling Bee. This year he hopes to do just a few words better.
“I’m just going to try and learn as many new words as I can,” he said.
He has nearly four months to practice. The Maine State Spelling Bee is on May 24 at the University of Southern Maine.