For 30 rounds and a little over an hour, Colin Aponte calmly spelled every word that came at him, his head and shoulders leaning forward as he pronounced letters into the microphone on the Hannaford Hall stage at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

Colin, a 13-year-old home-schooled student from Blue Hill, won the 2018 Maine State Spelling Bee on Saturday, beating out 13 other competitors. He said he wasn’t nervous, and he was confident he knew how to spell all of the words pronouncer Jeannine Uzzi sent his way. Colin, whose brother Brandon won the 2013 Maine spelling bee, said he studies spelling lists about two hours every night. The winning word was “crescendo,” a musical term meaning a “gradual increase in loudness.”

He will move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, to be held from May 27-31 and nationally televised on ESPN.

Maine State Spelling Bee winner Colin Aponte’s reaction as he realizes his final opponent, Moriah Reusch, misspelled a word. The 13-year-old was a runner-up in last year’s bee. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Students spelled a smorgasbord of words Saturday at the Maine state bee, with many of the words related to food, including “anchovy,” “bratwurst,” “empanada,” “pistachio” and “tamale.”

With the competition down to Colin and Moriah Reusch, a seventh-grader at Mt. Blue Middle School, a food word tripped up Moriah – “sashimi,” a raw fish delicacy served at Japanese sushi restaurants. She got it wrong by one letter, putting an “a” in place of the first “i.” Colin had to spell two words correctly to capture the win, and he got “regime” and “crescendo” correct to close out this year’s state bee.

Moriah and Colin dueled for eight rounds, while those two plus third-place finisher Max Sanborn, a China Middle School sixth-grader, competed for 11 rounds before Max bowed out.


Some of the words students spelled were tricky and rare, including “wikiwiki” a Hawaiian-derived word that means “super fast,” and “graupel,” which are “snow pellets,” a cross between sleet and hail.

Students receive a 450-word study list, and there’s a spelling list of more than 1,000 words put out by Scripps that students can study. Head judge Michael Ashmore said the national bee organizers give each state a list of 300 words off the study list to use in the bee, and they can go off the list if there are still competitors after that. The 2018 bee did not need to go beyond the study list, but the bee has had to in years past. In some years, competitors have gone more than four hours before someone emerges as the winner.

Champions from 14 Maine counties competed in the 2018 Maine State Spelling Bee Saturday. From left: Taylor Pelletier, Gage Taylor, Marilyn Worcester, William White, Moriah Reusch, Colin Aponte, Kaitlyn Bartash, Thomas Brearley, Nathanael Brown, Isaac Wyer, Samuel Scala, Jack Steere, Max Sanborn, Fatima Herrera Vargas. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Colin said the competition is fun, and while studying the words is difficult, it’s also enjoyable.

“There’s a lot of repetition, but I’ve learned a lot about how words are formed and the origin of words,” said Colin, a runner-up in last year’s state bee.

Moriah said it didn’t matter to her whether she won or lost, but she wanted to have fun and do better than last year. She accomplished both, as Moriah was grinning broadly after the competition while her family took her photo, and she improved upon her sixth-place finish last year.

Fourteen competitors from all counties except Penobscot and Waldo participated in the Maine State Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Portland Press Herald and Dead River Co.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: joelawlorph

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