Giles Platt didn’t just say his name as the 17 students in Thursday evening’s spelling bee did, one after the other; the eighth grader announced it, emphasizing the Indian Trails Middle School part. Eight rounds and 40 minutes later, he was hoisting the 2023-24 Flagler County Spelling Bee Champion’s trophy after spelling apparatus and vicarious correctly. He knew he had it right even before the judges confirmed it, beaming a grin as he repeated the word, then jumping with joy as the audience applauded.
He commandingly made his way through composition (in the practice round), version, acclaim, skirmish, excursion, vague, injurious, apparatus and vicarious. No doubt. No hesitation. He must be a Dickens fan. Joyce Holmes, an eighth grader at Imagine School at Town Center, who had to handle some of the evening’s meaner words, is the runner-up and alternate: If for some reason Platt is unable to represent the county at the 80th Annual First Coast Regional Spelling Bee in Jacksonville this spring, Holmes will take his place.
The spelling bee was held, as usual, at the Buddy Taylor-Wadsworth Elementary cafeteria,
“Just know I’m as nervous as you are,” Chris Stefancik, the district’s coordinator of assessment and accountability, told the contestants: he was to be their pronouncer. He warmed them up with a practice round and, among other words bronze, antlers, crookedly, furniture, secreted, sentinel, confident, delegation, arable, engulf, aptitude, composition, and communing. It was a taste of the word salad to come, that mixture of the obvious and the sneaky that leaves contestants never knowing which they’ll get.
Elevyn Thompson, a fifth grader at Belle Terre Elementary School, started the competition in earnest by conquering catnap as others spelled brick, useful, and delta, before the first speller to stumble was defeated by handle (she juxtaposed the last two letters). Then came a four-word winning streak by four students from Christ the King Lutheran School–thicket, flashback, funnel, trove–continued by Imagine’s two students (gossip, pending), two from Indian Trails Middle (livid, trifle), Platt’s seamless handling of version, followed by biscuit, before the streak came to an end with a stumble over scandal (spelled with a k instead of a c). So round one had claimed two spellers.
Round two was devastating, claiming seven of the remaining 15 contestants on words like regiment, calculator, kudos, dreadlocks, whereas, puritans (never trust a puritan) and premonition. Survivors handled inclusion, surplus, vocabulary, maternity, forgeable (ably handled by Joshua Schottey of Christ the King), jankers, one of the more ridiculous words of the evening–it refers to the punishment of soldiers, but only in Britain, and in fairness should not have been included here, though Joyce Holmes of Imagine, who would’ve had every right to roll her eyes, disposed of it well. Three of the next five students stumbled, the exceptions being Platt, with acclaim (a word he would soon experience), and Old Kings Elementary fifth grader’s confident handling of patience.
There was no pause to comfort the defeated in this contest where a single misplaced letter, a single e confused with a u, spells the end. There were just eight students left at the opening of Round three as enumerated immediately claimed the next speller who, following on Stefancik’s emphasis of the accented “ee” sound at the opening of enumerated, instead of the more common, softer e, spelled it inumerated: This is when the pronunciation of the pronouncer can unwittingly mislead an uncertain speller. Then came complementary, the word that continues to defy even the best of spellers who substitute an i for that first e, as it did the next speller. Occupancy was just as tricky for the next speller. And just like that, three words defeated three spellers in a row.
But then came a winning streak: Evren Kabir of Christ the King Lutheran School took the spectral out of spectral, Schottey handled adhesion, one of the trickier words of the evening, Holmes, who had conquered jankers, now did the same with seclusion, and Platt took care of skirmish. Leave it to essential to end the round on a down note. And just like that, round four started with just four contestants left, like the semifinalists at pre-March Madness: Kabir, Schottey, Holmes and Platt.
Kabir took care of criteria, Holmes flew through aviation and Platt took on excursion, but Schottey fell on anniversary. Kabir fell in round five over elocution, leaving Holmes and Platt to duel it out. If the previous rounds had all been nail-biting, this was the nail-gnawing portion of the competition. Holmes took care of collaborative and jubilant, Platt took care of vague and injurious (spelling that one with staccato speed and not for a moment belying the fact that he’d never heard the word before), before what turned out to be the eighth and final round.
Holmes fell on vandalize, putting an a in place of the i. Her only chance was for Platt to stumble on his next word. He didn’t. He pulled apparatus, and handled it with ease, but he still had to spell one more. That was vicarious. No problem. He thought most of the words were easy–according to a district release–and made it seem that way.
The judges were Teaching and Learning specialists Heidi Alves, Scott Reynolds, and Kristin Frank. The recordkeepers were Coordinator of Data Quality Louise Bossardet and Teaching and Learning Specialist Beth Harper. The full video of the competition is below, followed by a list of participants, each of whom had won his, her or their respective competition at individual schools.
Elevyn Thompson, Belle Terre Elementary School, 5th grade
Julianna Durrance, Bunnell Elementary School, 5th grade
Ethan Po, Old Kings Elementary School, 5th grade
D’lanesha Downer, Rymfire Elementary School, 5th grade
Nathaniel Ross, Wadsworth Elementary School, 5th grade
Aubrey Forbes, Buddy Taylor Elementary School, 6th grade
Matthew Sherwood, Buddy Taylor Middle School, 7th grade
Isaac D’Elia, Buddy Taylor Middle School, 8th grade
Tina Lebedeva, Indian Trails Middle School, 6th grade
Tanner Lagocki, Indian Trails Middle School, 7th grade
Giles Platt, Indian Trails Middle School, 8th grade
Scottlyn Hansen, Christ the King Lutheran School, 5th grade
Naia Spitzfadden, Christ the King Lutheran School, 6th grade
Evren Kabir, Christ the King Lutheran School, 7th grade
Joshua Schottey, Christ the King Lutheran School, 8th grade
Rylee Robinson, Imagine School, 7th grade
Joyce Holmes, Imagine School, 8th grade