Williston wins state spelling championship

Perseverance and practice paid off for a talented group of Williston middle school students as they s-p-e-l-l-e-d their way to victory at the annual Vermont State Spelling Competition on Saturday in Northfield.

The powerhouse team of fifth and sixth graders, who practiced every day after school for several weeks, faced tough competition from fellow regional winners including Green Street; Sherburne; and Derby elementary schools.

The Williston Central School team cast a spell over the competition, marching in unison to the stage in matching blue and gold shirts (the school’s colors) and khaki pants. Taking the lead early in the first round, the team managed to maintain it throughout the contest.

Williston’s biggest challenge came from Calais Elementary, who was just a bonus word away from taking the lead for much of the morning. It was a fight to the finish, but Williston beat out Calais by just 10 points in the “you could hear a pin drop” final round. Williston finished with a total score of 136 out of a possible 144 points.

After an enthusiastic round of applause, the new state champions crossed the stage to accept their medallions and trophy from Vermont Principals’ Association Director of Student Activities Bob Johnson.

The Williston spelling team members are Hannah Apfelbaum; Liam Kelley; Ellie Laukaitis; Greg Meyer; Sylvie Shanks; and Eva Theriault. Enrichment teachers Richard Allen and Betty Poirot got the team involved in the competition, with additional help from parent coaches.

The team’s achievement marks the highest level to which spelling teams can advance. Currently there are no regional or national competitions for teams. However, individuals can enter national competitions, such as the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Vermont Principals' Association sponsors co-curricular activities such as the state spelling competition “that support academics and cultivate the high ideals of good citizenship and sportsmanship,” according to its Web site. Williston Central School Principal Thom Fleury is an active member of the association.