Camels Hump 8th grader wins Vermont spelling bee for 2nd year in a row

Elise Cournoyer, the winner of the Vermont Spelling Bee, reacts after correctly spelling a word in an earlier round at Montpelier High School on Tuesday, March 21. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger

For a second time, Elise Cournoyer, an eighth grader from Camels Hump Middle School, won the Vermont State Scripps Spelling Bee, which was hosted at Montpelier High School on Tuesday. 

This year’s win, clinched with the word “ombudsman,” came as a surprise to Cournoyer. 

“I didn't really feel much when I won cause I didn't realize I won, I thought I had to spell another word.” The winner of the state spelling bee heads to the national competition held in Washington, D.C. “I’m glad I will be going back to D.C. because that was really fun,” Cournoyer said. 

Students listen to the opening remarks of the Vermont Spelling Bee. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Fifty-one spellers participated in Tuesday’s competition, and there were 21 rounds in total, lasting over two hours. 

What does preparing for a spelling bee entail?

“I memorized all of the words of the champions that were provided, and I also studied some Greek and Latin roots in case there were words I didn't know,” Cournoyer said. 

James Shenk, who ultimately placed second, reacts after correctly spelling a word. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger

For James Shenk, an eighth grader from Crossett Brook Middle School who secured second place, the preparation involved an hour-and-a-half mock spelling bee with his family the night before. 

Phoenix Newell, from the Riverside School, won third place. 

Cournoyer and Shenk went back and forth for the final 10 rounds. The words included “pyrite,” “civet,” “beaucoup,” “sousaphone” and “unctuous.”

Riverside School student Phoenix Newell waits for a turn at the Vermont Spelling Bee. Photo by Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Some words from the bee were surprising or modern, such as “selfie,” “yoohoo,” “scrapple,” “mano a mano,” “quonk,” “cadge,” “tutti frutti” and “brouhaha.” 

Scott Giles, the president and CEO of Vermont Student Assistance Corp; Auditi Guha, VTDigger’s Chittenden County editor; and Beth O’Brien of the Vermont Principals’ Association judged the event. 

VTDigger sponsored the spelling bee, alongside support from the Vermont Principals’ Association, Vermont Student Assistance Corp and Montpelier High School.

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Taylor Slonaker

About Taylor

Taylor is a senior at the University of Vermont studying English (Creative Writing), Political Science, and Spanish. She previously interned with the White River Valley Herald through the Community News Service at UVM where she covered a variety of news stories.


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