October 22, 2021

Top spellers vie in districtwide bee

This year’s Elementary School Spell Off had a familiar ring, Gabriel ‘Gabby’ Mendiola said.

“It seemed like the same test they gave us in the beginning,” said the fifth grader at Barry Elementary School.

Teachers gave all the fifthand sixth-graders in the city school district spelling tests to see who would represent their school in the spell off.

Gabby joined his cohorts Tuesday at the Kaufman Center in the 50-word written exam with words selected randomly from the 2018-2019 Scripps contest.

Lucas Fetterly was a returnee in the competition from last year. Aubree Larkin, Victoria Ramiza and Dante Wilson, like Gabby, were first timers. They grappled with the likes of “hibiscus,” “corrugated,” “amethyst” and “taut.”

Spelling still remains important, said Jeff Craig, assistant superintendent of schools, who administered the test. “Technology only gets you so far.”

Kids today need to know not only how to spell the words, but how to use them in a sentence and when, he said.

“It was mostly easy but there were a couple of hard ones,” Gabby said. He had a tough time with “affidavit.”

Dante Wilson said “squishy” and “warped” were easy.

“I think I did OK,” said Aubree Larkin, a Virgil student who loves reading. “My sister helped me.”

Best spellers in Cortland schools

These students won their fifth- and sixth-grade spell-offs in elementary schools in the Cortland Enlarged City School District:
• Lucas Fetterly, 11, sixth grader at Smith Elementary School
• Aubree Larkin, 11, sixth grader at Virgil Elementary
• Gabriel ‘Gabby’ Mendiola, 10, fifth grader at Barry Elementary
• Victoria Ramiza, 11, sixth grader at Parker Elementary
• Dante Wilson, 11, sixth grader at Randall Elementary.

Lucas Fetterly won last year’s event and advanced to the 2018 Post-Standard Spelling Bee in Syracuse.

He studied the words and was quizzed by his parents for this year’s event. He’d advise others to “Just study — really hard.”

After the tests were graded, Craig announced that Gabby, Victoria and Lucas would advance. They will be joined by seventh graders Jack Phelan, Matthew DeRado and Mya Romans in the next level, a written spell off exam Jan. 12 at Christian Brothers Academy.

The top 35 spellers from the written bee will compete in an oral bee on March 2 at WCNY in Syracuse.

“I feel very happy and am also pretty scared too,” Gabby said. “I heard there are going to be 300 kids in the Syracuse one. It’s a bit nerve wracking. But I am glad I made it.”

Victoria said she was surprised by the results. “I didn’t think I was going to win.”

She plans on preparing as she did for this test — but “way more.”

“I am going to try my hardest, and try to win this time,” Lucas said. “I am really proud of myself and very happy.”