Coralee LaRue wins Martha’s Vineyard Schools Spelling Bee

Champion Coralee LaRue of Tisbury School kept a cool and calm demeanor at the Martha's Vineyard Schools spelling bee. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

For Coralee LaRue, the saying, “Everything’s coming up roses,” might be more appropriately changed to “magnolia blossoms.” Knowing how to spell “magnolia” won the Tisbury School sixth-grader the championship at the Martha’s Vineyard School Spelling Bee on Friday morning.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times again sponsored the Island-wide annual spelling bee, now in its 21st year. Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School hosted the event at the Performing Arts Center.

Coralee and six other spellers from the five Island elementary schools, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and the home school community were selected following competitions at their schools for students in grades four through eight.

Runners-up in the Spelling Bee included fifth-grader Alexis Condon from Edgartown School, eighth-grader Oliver Carson from Oak Bluffs School, seventh-grade home schooled student Savannah Aiello, sixth-grader Coltrane Leport from West Tisbury School, fifth-grader Grace Hall from the Charter School and fourth-grader Kieran Karabees from Chilmark School.

Coralee, Oliver, and Alexis battled it out for nine rounds, where the word “trawl” felled Oliver. Alexis hung in for another three rounds, until the word “belay” stumped her.

Among 40 words in 13 rounds, others that knocked contestants out of the running included bungalow, discipline, nightingale, and worrisome.

After the competition, Coralee’s brother Elijah, an eighth-grader at Edgartown School, made a beeline to congratulate her at the foot of the stage. He said his 11-year-old sister is definitely the good speller in the family, and that he asks her how to spell a word every now and then.

Their older brother, Justin LaRue, and mom, Susan Wade, joined them. “I was nervous the whole time, and you looked like you weren’t at all,” Justin told Coralee.

Ms. Wade said Coralee finished second in Tisbury School’s spelling bees the last two years, so she was excited to win this year and have the opportunity to compete in the Island-wide bee.

To prepare, Coralee said she studied and practiced spelling for a while every day at home, and sometimes during school. “I got a book on Greek and Latin roots of words, and that really helped,” she said.

As the Island’s winner, Coralee will represent Martha’s Vineyard at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Times’ Bee sponsorship includes underwriting a trip to the national Bee for the champion and a chaperone.

The national Bee will be held during Bee Week, May 29 through June 3, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center on the Potomac River, near Washington, D.C. Semifinals and championship finals take place on June 2.

Jean Holenko of the Oak Bluffs School was the Bee coordinator. Whit Griswold, proofreader at The Times, was the pronouncer. Judges were Laurie Halt, assistant superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, and Times news writer Janet Hefler. Times editor Doug Cabral congratulated the spellers and presented them with certificates and prizes.

School bee coordinators were Treather Gassmann, Charter School; Jackie Guzalak, Chilmark; Deborah Orazem, Edgartown; Ms. Holenko, Oak Bluffs, Janet Stiller, Tisbury; and Skye Sonneborn, West Tisbury.