Amelia Rice knew the word, but in the championship round of the Maine State Spelling Bee, she still asked for the full gamut of clues from the pronouncer.

After getting a definition, hearing it in a sentence, learning its origin and hearing different pronunciations, Rice clearly and confidently spelled out V-E-N-U-E, using a finger to trace each letter on her palm as she read it out.

“I’m absolutely elated,” said the eighth-grader from South Bristol Elementary School after winning the championship Saturday afternoon. Rice will represent Maine at the Scripps National Spelling Bee this spring.

Rice rose to the top of 11 competitors representing their counties over 11 rounds and 71 words. Saturday’s bee, held at Hannaford Hall at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, wrapped up in just 37 minutes, the shortest state bee since 2009. It was the first in-person bee for two years. Since 2020, the state bee has been held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Khloe Roy, a sixth-grader from Madawaska Middle School, came in second place after incorrectly spelling “millionaire” in the 10th round. Adam Majewski, an eighth-grader from Yarmouth, and Dominique Giroux-Pare, an eighth-grader from Winslow, tied for third place. Majewski and Giroux-Pare were eliminated in the ninth round, after misspelling “navigator” and “opinionated,” respectively.

Rice, the state champion, came in fifth place last year. Competing in spelling bees is a natural outgrowth of her deep relationship with the English language.


Rice took on her words Saturday with confidence, barely taking time to consider her answer before speaking clearly into the microphone and spelling “postpone,” “contraction,” “spectral,” “weaponry” and others perfectly.

“I’ve always loved to read, I’ve always had an affinity for words,” she said.

All 11 spellers were awarded an L.L. Bean Scrabble board game and gourmet popcorn. The Maine State Spelling Bee was sponsored by the Portland Press Herald and Dead River Co. More than half the competitors were in fifth to seventh grades this year, which means they can return in coming years. Eighth grade is the cutoff for spelling bee competitors.

Rice will go on to represent Maine at the national spelling bee in the Washington, D.C., area in late May. The event brings state champions from across the U.S. for a week of spelling fun.

“It is just a nerd fest,” said head judge Glenn Jordan, describing the national bee to the Maine competitors. “They will treat you like rock stars; it is just so cool.”

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