MATTOON -- The word “vulpine,” which means to resemble or relate to a fox, solidified the end of the battle to take the top spot as the champion of the Mattoon Spelling Bee, however it was not the end.
The five remaining contestants fought for the four remaining spots eventually ending at round 20. Debbie Seaman, Mattoon bee organizer said this was one of the longest, if not the longest, in recent memory.
Seaman attributed this to the students involved. This was a testament to the contestants in Mattoon that were participating. It took a few rounds before the first casualty fell at the hands of the word “Twine.”
After that, more students fell to the growing intensity of words presented to them. However, it wasn't until the eighth, ninth and tenth rounds where the words grew out of the more simple words like “poem” or “elbow” and moved into words like “equestrian” and “clodhopper” started taking out large swaths of the competition.
Before confirming his first place spot with “vulpine,” a word which he said he had not even heard of before the contest, Gabriel Harris, 14, had to successfully spell “burglarious,” which is the act of breaking and entering a residence to commit a felony.
He was at the end of the line of five contestants in the 11th round. The other four were unsuccessful in tackling their equally obscure, uncommon or syllable-filled words. Like with “vulpine” and the other later round words he handled, burglarious was a word, at least in that form, he guessed on spelling was successful in doing so.
“I had to guess pretty much on how it sounded,” he noted about his final words.
Harris said he was surprised he made it as far, especially with the competition. He was glad he scraped by missing words others had like “scrumptious.”
“I thought I was going to get out really early,” he said.
After a few rounds Callan Haldorsen, 13, was able to spell “stilton” and then confirm her second place spot with the correct spelling of “habanero.”
Haldorsen said she was glad to miss out on words others had like “silhouetted.”
Xiola Seymour, 14, took third this year. A veteran to the top spots. Last year, she took first place in the Mattoon bee.
Hayden Williams, 14, fought for the alternate spot. A few rounds went by before he was able to claim his spot, successfully taking on the word “potentialities.”
The top three will be going to the Coles County Spelling Bee on Feb. 16 with Williams attending as a stand-in should one of the others not be able to compete.
The other eight-grade qualifiers who participated in the spelling bee are Jack Wiarda, Aurora Kemp, Coby Haney, Rebecca Croy, Xylia Greeson, Haley Hubbart, Nik James, Jane Logue, Madison Miller, Nico Scott, Gage Hoene, Nate Annis, Mollie Auer, Lauren Monterusso, Laryza Martinez, Maggie Uphoff and Dominick Laws.
Seventh-grade qualifiers include Chase Armstrong, Nate Huddleston, Kathryn Hampton and Chloe Pruitt. Sixth-grade qualifiers were Ava Willingham, Jackson Helms, Hannah Stroud, Keenan Strader, Koby Wilson, T.J. Owen and Haley Gordon.