A Cape Elizabeth boy won the Maine State Spelling Bee on Saturday following a marathon three-hour contest — the longest in recent memory — that tested the limits of both his memory and his bladder.

Nat Jordan, a seventh-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, was declared the victor after spelling words correctly for 50 consecutive rounds, during more than half of which he stood alone on stage with one other boy, Brandon Aponte, a sixth-grader from Hancock County.

The mano-a-mano match between the two regional spelling champs dragged on so long that the judges were flipping through lists trying to find words that might stump one of them.

In the end, Jeannine Diddle-Uzzi, a classics professor as the University of Maine of Southern Maine, flipped too far and stumbled upon some relatively easy words.

It was one of those easy words, “deceitful,” that cost Brandon the title. Previously, he had correctly spelled “hemerocallis,” “rejoneador” and “mynheer.”

To win, all Nat needed to do was to correctly spell “coincidence” — a slam-dunk in the world of competitive spelling — and that is exactly what he did, staying focused even as he badly needed to go to the bathroom.

“What a relief,” he said in an interview after the contest.

Last year, the spelling bee was over after 16 rounds. In 2010, it lasted 19 rounds.

Nat, 12, will fly to Washington, D.C., in May to compete for the national title.

Fourteen children from around the state competed in the spelling bee, which was sponsored by MaineToday Media and help at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

Besides Nat and Brandon, Ben Philbrook, an eighth-grader from the Ashland School District in Aroostook County, did well. The three boys competed with each other between round 14 and round 36, when Philbrook was knocked out by misspelling “issei,” a Japanese term used in Austriala and the Americas to describe the first generation of Japanese immigrants.

Representing Kennebec County was Ariana Cousins, an eighth-grader from Stepping Stones Montessori School.

Diddle-Uzzi (the USM professor and not a spelling word), said after the contest was over that she had tried to put an end to it.

“I needed to find harder words and harder words,” she said “They were extraordinary. I could not stump them.”

When contestants misspelled words, they returned to their seats on stage.

Some struggled to keep their composure as their parents watched helplessly.

One of the judges, Michael Ashmore, had warned everyone at the start of the contest that it would be a stressful experience.

“The awful things about spelling bees is that almost everyone loses,” he said. “That’s a fact of life.”


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