Alexis Condon competes at national spelling bee


Martha’s Vineyard Regional Spelling Bee champion Alexis Condon,11, a sixth-grader at Edgartown School, returned to the Island after competing against 281 of the nation’s best spellers at the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee last week.

Alexis was eliminated when she misspelled the word “asana” in Round 2. For those who are wondering, “asana” is a posture adopted in performing hatha yoga.

On the day of the competition, Alexis woke up suffering from the effects of allergies. She had a fever and struggled to get out of bed, her mother Carlene Gatting said. But she persevered.

“I just enjoyed myself while I could,” Alexis told The Times in a phone conversation on Tuesday. “I knew I wouldn’t get far, but I wanted to give it my best, and I did.”

The national spelling bee was the culmination of Bee Week, May 26 through May 31, held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.

Alexis joined spellers from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, as well as the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, and South Korea.

This year’s group included 52 percent girls and 48 percent boys, according the Scripps National Spelling Bee website. More than 63 percent came from public schools and 19 percent from private schools, and nearly 9 percent were home-schooled.

Alexis earned a place at the national Bee after winning the annual Martha’s Vineyard Schools Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Times, on March 22.

Alexis competed in the local regional bee with six other spellers from the Island’s elementary schools, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and the home school community. The Times’s Bee sponsorship includes underwriting a trip to the national Bee for the champion and a chaperone, as well as the cost of school bees. Alexis’s parents, Carlene Gatting and Fred Condon, and twin sister Mackenzie joined her on the trip.

On Tuesday, May 25, Alexis and the other contestants tackled spelling and vocabulary testing on a computer for round 1. Despite challenging words such as epideictic, Lisztian and Ouagadougou, she did quite well, her mother reported in an email to The Times last week.

On Wednesday, Alexis moved on to Round 2, where spellers took to the stage for the first oral part of the competition. Under new rules adopted this year, instead of spelling two words before facing elimination at the end of Round 3, spellers got no second chance.

The championship finals took place on Thursday, May 30. Arvind Mahankali, age 13, of New York City, correctly spelled “knaidel” to win first place. His prizes included more than $30,000 in cash and a huge trophy. Arvind was a returning national spelling bee veteran who finished third the two previous years.

On Friday, Alexis and the spellers enjoyed a tour of Washington, D.C., during the day and then were honored at a banquet that night, Ms. Gatting said in her email. “It’s quite amazing, and I think a once in a lifetime experience for her to meet spellers from all over the country and the world,” she added.

Scripps has sponsored the national spelling bee for 70 years. The Sponsor Beehive, a biweekly newsletter for Scripps National Spelling Bee sponsors, highlighted The Times as a longstanding supporter in its March 19 issue .

“With twenty-one years of participation,” the Sponsor Beehive noted, “it’s clear that the spelling bee program is still important to this community.”