Spencer Pogue deems Scripps National Spelling Bee “F-U-N”

Named the Island's spelling champion in March, Spencer took part in the national competition with 280 other spellers from across the country.

Spencer Pogue took time out from the spelling competition to enjoy the sights in Washington. — Photo by Steve Pogue

Spencer Pogue, the Martha’s Vineyard elementary school spelling champion, wrapped up a week at the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee richer in friends and spelling knowledge.

“I had a great time at the bee,” Spencer wrote in an email to The Times on Friday.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times sponsors the Island spelling bee annually and underwrites the cost of the trip to the national Bee for the champion and a chaperone. Spencer, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at the Edgartown School, won the Island’s bee on March 14. Last week, he joined 280 other spelling bee finalists for Bee Week, held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md., near Washington, D.C.

They represented all 50 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe, as well as the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, and South Korea. Spencer’s dad, Steve Pogue, accompanied him.

During Bee Week, the spellers enjoyed some opportunities to have fun and socialize in the days leading up to the National Spelling Bee Championship finals on May 29.

“My favorite part was the barbecue,” Spencer said. “I got to meet new spellers, play volleyball, and win a hula-hooping contest.”

In the preliminaries, round one, on Tuesday, May 27, Spencer and the other contestants tackled a computer-based spelling and vocabulary test. On Wednesday they advanced to round two, where they took to the stage for the first oral part of the competition. Spencer was speller 114.

“I was really nervous with so many people watching, but once I got up to the microphone I was fine,” Spencer said.

He correctly spelled the word “corpuscle” in round two, which by coincidence was the same word given to Island spelling champ Olivia Jacobs in the same round at the 2011 national Bee.

In round three Wednesday afternoon, although he gave it some careful thought, Spencer misspelled “deaerate” and was eliminated from further competition. Deaerate means to partially or completely remove dissolved air from (something).

“I second guessed myself on deaerate, but I still would’ve been a few points off of making it to the semifinals,” Spencer said. No more than 50 spellers make it to the semifinals, based on their preliminaries score.

In retrospect, Spencer added, “I took back from this that etymology is everything in this contest, and knowing roots is the difference between the finalists and the people who misspell in the second round.”

In the championship finals on Thursday, Sriram Hathwar, 14, from New York, and Ansun Sujoe, 13, from Texas, spelled to a tie, the national Bee’s first in more than 50 years. Pronouncer Jacques Bailly declared them co-champions after they went five rounds without either missing a word. Although the two share the title, they do not have to split the prizes. Each will receive a $30,000 cash prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster, and $1,200 worth of reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In retrospect, Spencer said his experience at the national spelling Bee has inspired him to try for another win at the Island’s bee in 2015.

“I hope to stay in contact with some new friends and try to return to D.C. next year,” he said, adding, “As long as my sisters don’t beat me.”

Spencer and his sisters Paige and Molly, who are triplets, competed against each other in the Edgartown School spelling competitions this year. Paige was runner-up to Spencer in their classroom spelling bee, and Molly was runner-up to Spencer in the school-wide bee.

They and their mother, Kathy Pogue, cheered Spencer on as they watched a live broadcast of the national Bee on ESPN, as did many of his Edgartown School classmates.

I want to thank MV Times for sponsoring me at the National Bee,” Spencer wrote in a second email to The Times on Friday. “I really enjoyed the trip. I met a lot of nice people and had a memorable experience.”

When not practicing how to spell words, Spencer enjoys playing the viola in the Edgartown School orchestra, as well as the piano, according to his biography in the Bee Week guide. He also serves on the school’s student council and plays on the tennis team. Spencer wants to be an architect when he grows up.