Olivia Jacobs wins again at Martha’s Vineyard spelling bee

James Weiss, superintendent of Martha's Vineyard Public Schools and a Spelling Bee judge, congratulated Olivia Jacobs, the 2011 Martha's Vineyard Bee winner. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Although there were 17 hard-fought rounds, Olivia Jacobs, a Tisbury School seventh-grader, took a beeline to the top Friday morning, at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools’ annual Spelling Bee.

For Olivia, it was the second straight year that she’s been the top speller among Vineyard Bee participants.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times sponsored this 20th annual Bee, which was hosted by Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, on March 18 in the Performing Arts Center.

The hour-long contest came down to a battle of words over eight rounds between Olivia and Amanda Barbosa, an eighth-grader from Oak Bluffs School. The word “hydraulic” put Amanda out of the running, and Olivia clinched first place by correctly spelling “suave.”

She and six other spellers from the five Island elementary schools, the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, and the home school community competed, after they were selected following competitions at their schools for students in grades four through eight. The Times underwrote the costs associated with the school bees.

In addition to Amanda, the other runners-up in the regional bee, in order of finish, were: Pearl Vercruysse, grade 6, from West Tisbury; Savanna Aiello, grade 6, from the home school community; Ciara Seccombe, grade 5, from the Charter School; Paulo Pereira, grade 6, from Edgartown; and Coltrane Leport, grade 5, from Chilmark.

Among the 52 words in 17 rounds, the ones that foiled contestants included tithe, diorama, wanderlust, popularity, semantics, and hydraulic.

The words selected for last week’s competition came from a final local bee list of 500 words provided from the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Olivia was well-practiced, both at spelling and endurance. Her win at Tisbury School’s bee on February 22 came at the end of 42 rounds, after she and fifth-grader Coralee Larue battled it out for several of them. Olivia said after she won her school spelling bee, she studied about two to three hours a day from a list of about 1,200 words available on an online national Bee study site to prepare for the Island-wide competition.

In the midst of all of her spelling preparations, Olivia also managed to take part in the Tisbury School production of “Bye-Bye Birdie,” run her dog-walking and grooming business, and play volleyball and basketball.

Jean Holenko of the Oak Bluffs School was the Bee coordinator. Whit Griswold, editor of The Times’ Community section, was the pronouncer. James Weiss, superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, and Times news writer Janet Hefler were the judges. Times editor Doug Cabral congratulated the spellers and presented them with certificates and prizes.

School bee coordinators were Deb Orazem, Edgartown; Janet Stiller, Tisbury; Skye Sonneborn, West Tisbury; Jackie Guzalak, Chilmark; Treather Gassmann, Charter School; and Vanessa Fink, Home School Group.

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

The national competition will be held June 1 and 2, during Bee Week, which runs May 29 through June 3, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center on the Potomac River, near Washington, D.C.