No. Kingstown 6th-grader Dunning wins State Spelling Bee

No. Kingstown 6th-grader Dunning wins State Spelling Bee

The contestants battle it out at the 2019 State Spelling Bee. The Bee, sponsored by The Valley Breeze, was held at Lincoln Middle School last Saturday. (Breeze photos by Bill Murphy)
North Providence’s Kasapoglu is runner-up

LINCOLN – Alice Dunning is bound for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

By correctly spelling the words “majordomo” and “Kelvin,” Dunning, a 6th-grader at Wickford Middle School in North Kingstown, secured her victory in the 2019 Rhode Island State Spelling Bee last Saturday, March 16, out-spelling 25 other participants from across the state. The bee was sponsored by The Valley Breeze, with help from co-sponsors at Dave’s Marketplace, Anchor Subaru-Nissan, Hunter Insurance and Navigant Credit Union.

Dunning went head-to-head with runner-up Yilmaz Kasapoglu, of North Providence, for the final six rounds of the competition. An 8th-grader at Birchwood Middle School, Kasapoglu set his sights on the state championship after winning at the district level for the third consecutive time last month. This was the last bee for the student who started learning English as a 4-year-old.

Many other participants were returning to the stage at Lincoln Middle School last Saturday, including Smithfield’s Anna Costello, a 7th-grader at Gallagher Middle School, also making her fourth appearance in the statewide bee. Dunning and North Smithfield Middle School 6th-grader Nick Moskalenko both represented their towns for the second straight year.

Moskalenko was knocked out of the first round after mistaking the word “grabble” for “gravel.” He was one of two students eliminated that round; another falling victim to the word “caboose.” The second round saw one more participant go down, from Newport, who misspelled “hector.”

Seven more students were eliminated in round three, including Lincoln Middle School 8th-grader Matthew Connors, who misspelled “potash,” and 5th-grader Kai Hensley of the Captain Isaac Paine School in Foster-Glocester, who misspelled “obstinate.” Other students tripped up on words such as “clapboard,” “hawthorn” and “pundit.”

In the next round, four more students left the stage thanks to “autobahn,” “palette,” “alleviate,” and “knish,” which stumped Scituate Middle School’s Luca Iacobo. The 12 students left standing all survived two more rounds, with students nailing the spelling of words such as “incredulous,” “blithe,” “triumvirate” and “pitchblende.”

The competition began to heat up in round 11, with the pool of participants whittled down to 10. At the start of the round, Costello was eliminated when she spelled “nuptials” as “nuptuals.” A challenge was brought to the judges, arguing that the word had been mispronounced; however, head judge and former Cumberland Supt. Donna Morelle said the appeal would not stand, “based on the judges’ rendering of pronouncer Kim Kalunian’s accurate pronunciation,” along with alternate pronunciations.

“We actually rehearsed that word quite carefully and were prepared for that word, as was the pronouncer,” she said after the appeal.

Round 11 also saw the elimination of Blackstone Valley Prep 5th-grader Aathraey Shrikanth, West Broadway Middle School 6th-grader Christina Keomany and St. Philip School 8th-grader Anna Vredenburg. Down to six students in the 12th round, Cumberland’s champion Sahasra Yenumula, a 5th-grader at Community School, misspelled “subsumed.”

At the start of round 14, five students remained in the competition: Dunning and Kasapoglu, along with St. Michael Country Day School 7th-grader Cash Martin, Kickemuit Middle School 7th-grader Teagan Tucker and 6th-grader Dylan Hong, of Portsmouth Middle School. That round, Martin misspelled “flummery,” and Tucker misspelled “influxion.”

Two hours into the contest, the three remaining participants battled for two more rounds before Hong spelled “gerund” as “gerrand.” The competition was down to two.

Kasapoglu started the round by successfully spelling “yeoman,” followed by Dunning, who correctly spelled “Andes.” For the first time during the contest, Kasapoglu did not ask for any clues before spelling “valedictorian.” Dunning slid to safety when she correctly spelled “euphonious.”

The luck of both students ran out in round 20 when Kasapoglu added an extra “L” to conciliate, and Dunning added an “H” to “rictus.” They were each given a new word, which they spelled correctly. In round 22, Kasapoglu correctly spelled “oculist” before Dunning mistook “billet” for “bilout.”

At that point, victory was in Kasapoglu’s grasp as he was given a championship word: “scree.”

“If you spell this correctly, you’ll be the champion,” Morelle said.

After asking for the definition, country of origin and alternate pronunciations, he ultimately misspelled the word by swapping the “C” for a “K.”

Another round began. Kasapoglu was asked to spell “obloquy,” but mistook the second “O” for an “I.” When Dunning correctly spelled her word, “majordomo,” she was given a championship word, “Kelvin,” securing her first-place victory over Kasapoglu.

Asked for her thoughts on her win, Dunning was at a loss for words.

“I can’t believe I won,” she said, clearly in shock. She said she practiced spelling for the bee, and has participated every year since 4th grade, winning her school bee that year and district bee as a 5th-grader.

On her road to victory, she correctly spelled words such as “Kremlin,” “providence,” “benevolent,” “impetuous,” “mummers,” “decathlon” and “indict.”

“She has worked so hard for this,” said her father, Harry, who noted that she’s only 12 years old.

The Valley Breeze will pay for Dunning’s trip to Washington, D.C. this May, where she will represent the state at the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Breeze Publisher Tom Ward served as moderator and coordinator of the bee. Kalunian, a reporter at WPRI-TV, served as the official pronouncer for the event.

In addition to Morelle, the judges were Martha Correia of Navigant Credit Union and Leigh Martin, an English professor at the Community College of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island State Spelling Bee 2019 winner Alice Dunning, 12, center, a grade 6 student from Wickford Middle School in North Kingstown, celebrates her victory after the competition. With her is, from left, Tom Ward, publisher of The Valley Breeze, Alice’s sister Lucy, 8, her father, Harry, and WPRI-TV Channel 12 reporter Kim Kalunian, the pronouncer for the Bee.
At top, Sahasra Yenumula, a 5th-grader at Community School in Cumberland, spells her word. Above, Matthew Connors, an 8th-grader at Lincoln Middle School, carefully spells out his answer.