The road to the state spelling title

NEWFANE — Last fall's victory by NewBrook at the State Spelling Bee was a cliffhanger.

The three-tiered event for fifth- and sixth-graders includes competing against schools in the same supervisory union, with the winners competing regionally and then all the regional winners competing for the third and last round.

Students are chosen by elimination, and the top six form the team. The final rounds were held at Northfield Elementary School.

VanPamelen explained what a tense time it was.

“NewBrook was down by four points for most of the competition. They'd won their local and regionals, but everything starts all over again for the final rounds. You are competing against six or seven schools in a 12-round event.”

Rounds consist of spelling so-called regular words and bonus words. NewBrook was still in fourth place at the end of the fourth round.

But, by the end of the eighth round, the team had moved up to third. Then, after a series of regular word successes, NewBrook was up against Sharon Elementary, the school that stayed in first place the entire competition.

“It was really stressful,” VanPamelen said. “We'd been five times before and not won. We were finally tied for second and then, just before the absolute final, Sharon misspelled one those 'ance/ence' words.

“When our team member, Jessie Stockwell, spelled 'arbitrate' correctly, we won. You could see Jessie visibly relax when she heard the word she was given to spell.”

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