North Kingstown's Landry wins state Spelling Bee for second straight year

North Kingstown's Landry wins state Spelling Bee for second straight year

Stephen Landry, 11, a 6th-grader at Wickford Middle School in North Kingstown, is congratulated by chief judge Donna Morelle, former Cumberland superintendent of schools, after winning the state Spelling Bee held at Lincoln Middle School Saturday. Stephen will represent Rhode Island at the Scripps National Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. (Valley Breeze photo by Bill Murphy)

LINCOLN - In 2013, he ended a 17-round battle with the word "humanitarian."

This year, the stakes were even higher, when just after the 24th round, Stephen Landry edged out his opponent by correctly spelling the championship word "chassis" at the Rhode Island State Spelling Bee.

Landry, a 6th-grader from Wickford Middle School, was declared the winner of the 2014 competition, besting 24 of the state's top 5th-, 6th-, 7th- and 8th- grade spellers in an event held at Lincoln Middle School on Saturday, March 8. He'll go on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in late May.

"I'm really excited," Landry told The Breeze while accepting his second award. The victor admitted he'd studied a lot for the competition, with help from his entire family.

Landry's closest opponent, Amiya Mandapati, a 6th-grader from The Lincoln School in Providence and a resident of the town of Lincoln, challenged the reigning state spelling bee champion with some serious competition in a tense 10-round one-on-one spell-off. After confidently conquering words including "escargot," "dyslexia," and "charlatan," Mandapati added an extra "s" to the word "sassafras."

Landry impressed the crowd of around 75 onlookers by spelling some difficult words as well, including "meistersinger," "Cheka" and "issei," before closing out the 24th and final round with the word "halal," and sealing the deal by correctly spelling the championship word.

The pair had been left alone on the stage for the face-off after Armish Khan, a 7th-grader from Providence representing Nathan Bishop Middle School, and Giovanna Landrie, a 5th-grader from West Warwick representing Deering Middle School, misspelled "samurai" and "pochismo," respectively.

Although the bee technically lasted longer than Landry's first qualifying visit in 2013, the 6th-grade speller said he was more relaxed and found this year's win less difficult.

"It was easier because they didn't go on to words from a different list that we couldn't study," he said.

As spelling bee contestants show increasing proficiency, judges instruct the moderator to skip ahead on a preset study list of increasingly difficult words.

This year's judging team was led by former Cumberland School Supt. Donna Morelle and included state Sen. Ryan Pearson of Citizens Bank, and Leigh Martin, associate professor of English at Community College of Rhode Island.

Landry said that at last year's national finals, he spelled both on-stage words correctly, but ultimately didn't make it into the oral competition because of his score on a separate component: a written exam. Spellers are eliminated during several rounds, including written tests, at Scripps before going on to the championship finals.

Lincoln, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Cumberland, Scituate and Glocester all sent competitors to this year's state bee.

Smithfield's Elena Caliri, a 5th-grader from Old County Road School, and Julie Andrade, a 7th-grader representing North Cumberland Middle School, were eliminated early in the second round. Maia Young-Ondrasek, a 7th-grader from Lincoln Middle School, was knocked out in round 5 with the word "kabuki," and Jacob Harwood, an 8th-grader from Ponaganset Middle School held on until round 6, when he misspelled "incorruptible." North Smithfield's Elizabeth Votta, an 8th-grader who had qualified for the state bee for a third consecutive year, was taken out in round 7 with the word "quesadilla," as was Lauren Hall, a 7th-grader from Scituate Middle School who misspelled "bouer."

The state bee is sponsored annually by The Valley Breeze. The emcee was Breeze Publisher Tom Ward, and Karen Meyers, ABC6 anchor, pronounced the words for the contestants.

Added support comes from the Utility Contractors Association of Rhode Island and Citizens Bank.

Lincoln Middle School hosted the state Spelling Bee last Saturday. Cailee Grayhorse Pupecki, of Central Falls, takes her turn at the challenge. (Valley Breeze photo by Bill Murphy)