Wheeler’s Kim wins 2021 State Spelling Bee

Wheeler’s Kim wins 2021 State Spelling Bee

PROVIDENCE – Seoyon Kim is Rhode Island’s top speller.

The Wheeler School 8th grader out-spelled the competition during last Friday’s Rhode Island State Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Valley Breeze.

Kim went for eight rounds in the bee, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her victory secured her a place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Kim said she’s nervous for the national bee, “... but I’m excited to represent Rhode Island. I’ll do my best.”

The competition’s youngest competitor, 4th-grader Laura Costello of Winsor Elementary School in Smithfield, was the runner-up.

Other participants in this year’s local competition were Lincoln Middle School 6th-grader Ethan Abreu; Max Ramirez, an 8th-grader at Birchwood Middle School in North Providence; Maiya Robert, a 7th-grader at Deering Middle School in West Warwick; and Daniel Piampiano, a 7th-grader at Scituate Middle School.

Due to the virtual setting, students were asked to keep their hands visible as they spelled, and to take a pledge of integrity promising not to give or receive help during the bee.

Judges for the competition were former Cumberland Superintendent of Schools Donna Morelle, Martha Correia, of Navigant Credit Union, and Leigh Martin, an English professor at the Community College of Rhode Island. Kim Kalunian, reporter and anchor at WPRI, served as pronouncer.

All five spellers moved through the first round with ease, but Lincoln’s Abreu was eliminated in the following round when he mixed up the placement of the letter “u” in the word restaurant.

The competition was tight in rounds three and four, with each of the remaining spellers hanging on to move into the fifth, which proved to be more challenging.

Before the start of the bee, Ramirez of North Providence asked whether spellers could go back if they made a mistake. For example, he asked if he began to spell the word “diamond” as “D-A-I,” could he then retrace his steps. The answer was no.

Unfortunately, Ramirez made that mistake in round five, realizing almost immediately that he had. Given the word “thunderbolt,” he spelled “THU-D” before saying “N! N!” and finishing the word.

Morelle requested a breakout room to confer with the judges, leaving the main Zoom room in silence as spellers and their supporters awaited word back. When they returned, Morelle said typically they err on the side of the speller, “but unfortunately that spelling was incorrect due to the rule that the order of spelling cannot be changed.”

During the same round, Piampiano misspelled the word “vault,” bringing the competition down to three remaining students.

Before the next round, an announcement was made that they’d be switching over to a new section of words, which students had not been given the opportunity to study before the competition.

In the sixth round, Robert correctly spelled “calico,” Costello the word “butterscotch,” and Kim the word “eternity.”

During the seventh round, Robert tripped up over the word “chard,” adding an extra “r.” With 4th-grader Costello correctly spelling “pollen” and 8th-grader Kim correctly spelling “tinderbox,” the bee was down to two.

Costello, in round eight, misspelled the word “feral.” Next up, Kim aced the spelling of “trilogy.”

Kim was given the championship word “bout,” which she also nailed, securing her spot as the first-place winner in this year’s R.I. State Spelling Bee. Runner-up Costello will serve as a backup should Kim be unable to participate in the national bee that she has qualified for.

After the competition, Kim told The Breeze, “It felt a little strange to do the Spelling Bee virtually, but I’m really happy about how it turned out. I did better than I thought I would. I tried the Spelling Bee last year as well, but I did much better this year.”

Breeze Editor Ethan Shorey, moderator of the competition, congratulated Kim and wished her well in the national competition.

This is the newspaper’s 15th year supporting the competition, which makes it possible for area spellers to advance to the National Spelling Bee. Sponsors for the bee were Navigant Credit Union, Anchor Subaru/Nissan, Hunter Insurance and Dave’s Market.