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Local students compete in county spelling bee

Edison Hatter

(4/1) Can you spell "pangolin," "xylophone," and "sauerbraten"? What about define words like "alderman," "hinterlands," and "hypothesis?" This year’s competitors in the annual Frederick County Spelling Bee certainly can! Spellers from 30 different schools around Frederick County met in the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater on the campus of Frederick Community College on Saturday, March 10 to crown the county spelling bee champion. Local students in the competition included Riley Sullivan of Lewistown Elementary School, Mia Ferraro of Mother Seton School, and Benjamin Krauss of Thurmont Middle School. Also in attendance were the alternate spellers for each school: Rachel Herbst for Lewistown Elementary School, Ivy Coldren for Mother Seton School, and Dylan Nicholson for Thurmont Middle School.

Both Sullivan and Ferraro advanced past the first round, correctly spelling "denim" and "cleanser" respectively. However, Krauss was eliminated in the first round on the word "loam," spelling it "lome." In the second round, Sullivan correctly spelled "ravioli," while Ferraro correctly spelled "matriarch" to advance. The third round was a vocabulary round during which spellers received a question about vocabulary with two possible answer choices. Both Sullivan and Ferraro made easy work of the questions thrown their way.

Sullivan correctly identified a belladonna as a type of flower, while Ferraro correctly defined dissect. Round four was the end for Sullivan as he incorrectly spelled "myriad" as "mirired." Ferraro continued on after correctly spelling "karaoke." Round by round Ferraro continued to correctly spell words including "punctilio," "tally," "Athens," "describe," and "manipulate." As she continued on, more and more spellers were eliminated each round. Unfortunately, Ferraro’s run came to an end in the tenth round as she incorrectly defined "conjecture" in another vocabulary round. She finished in eighth place.

In the end, Charles Millard, a seventh grader representing the Frederick Classical Charter School, won the bee after correctly spelling the word "contemporaneous" in the eighteenth round. For his victory at the county level spelling bee, Millard has earned a trip to Washington DC in May to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Nearly 300 of the top spellers across the country will join Millard in the competition that will crown the top speller in the nation. The last time a local area speller advanced to the national competition was in 2014 when Stephen Hochschild, then an eighth grader at Mother Seton School, won the county bee. Hochschild also won the county bee in 2013, but 2014 marked the first year that the county bee winner advanced to the national spelling bee.

This year’s competition turned out to be one of the toughest in the bee’s history as an unprecedented eight spellers advanced to the tenth round or beyond. In fact, Tara Lebherz, the head judge of the bee, commented afterwards that the spellers almost exhausted the entire list of words prepared for the day. Mary Jo Richmond and Janet Vogel served as judges alongside Lebherz. Caroline O’ Connell, chairperson of the Frederick County Public Libraries Spelling Bee Committee, served as the master of ceremonies and Geordie Wilson, publisher of the Frederick News-Post, was the pronouncer for the event.

To find out more about the Frederick County spelling bee, visit and to find out more about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, visit