How can it be that in nearly three decades of glorious Wellesley Spelling Bee history, Wellesley College has never taken home the trophy? Mt. Holyoke Alumnae did it back in 1991. And 1994. And 1995, before they finally got bored and, we can only guess, moved on to bigger and better things. Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni have done it (twice). So have the BC Alumni, and Babson College.
Somehow, the big win has always remained stupefyingly unwinnable (yes, those were both Bee words that I forced into this report) by this town’s own Seven Sisters college. Well, after tonight, Spelling Bee historians will no longer be able to raise an eyebrow and whisper, “Funny, isn’t it, that Wellesley College has never won.” Because tonight, Wellesley College’s Christina Dolan, Vicki Mutascio, and Ann Stout were the Queen Bees, and their illustrious school is no longer a wanna be at the big show.
Their winning word: legerdemain, which means the skillful use of one’s hands when performing conjuring tricks. Very Halloween-y, indeed, and sort of womyn-ish, too, which rocks.
Congratulations is also in order to the Wellesley Education Foundation (WEF), which welcomed 55 teams to its 28th annual Spelling Bee and raised over $62,00. WEF is an integral part of the volunteer/pubic schools partnership in Wellesley, awarding over $240,000 to WPS educators in 2016 – 2017.
Here’s the way the Bee works: There are seven rounds of about eight teams of three spellers, who collaborate as a team on each word. Each team prints its version of the word on a slate within 25 seconds, and holds the slate up for the scrutiny of judges Judith Belliveau (WPS Asst Superintendent); Lori Cimeno (WPS Director of Student Services); and Mark Ito (WMS Principal). If a team misspells the word, the team is eliminated. The last team to spell a word correctly in a particular round is declared the winner of that round. Winning teams of the seven Preliminary Rounds are then called for the Championship Round, and the same rules apply.
Here are some of the words Master of Ceremonies and long-time Boston sports reporter Mike Dowling dropped: ekistics, rocaille, equinoctial, swaraj, naphtha, deltiology, and froufrou. Yikes. The finalists who made it through these spelling gymnastics were: the Town of Wellesley Advisory Committee; Wellesley College; WHS National Honor Society; Upham PTO; Friends of Wellesley METCO; Wellesley United Soccer Club; and WHS PTSO.
In the final round they all were amazing, spelling netiquette, prolegomenon, liliaceous, and ocicat. Finally, legerdemain came along, and that’s what it took for Wellesley College to rise above and dominate the field.
As always, the Bee was a blast. The Wellesley Middle School teachers won the Spirit Award. Drew Bourn, Natasha Goddard, and Kari Sciera came dressed as Spell’s Angels and were truly an intimidating sight, dressed as a gang you would not want to mess with. There they were up on the stage, staring down the WMS Students team, in a classic display of intimidation (bullying?) technique. There were the WMS Students, giggling and pointing at the faculty, in a classic display of middle school deportment. Well played, kids.
Even Dowling was a little rattled by the spectre of the Spell’s Angels. “Good job, Spell’s Angels,” he said with awe and respect in his voice as they left the stage without winning a thing. They’d been summarily dispatched by the Friends of Wellesley METCO with the word naphtha. Mike has been around the block a few times, though, and his nice car was parked just around one of those blocks. I noticed when I left that it was still in one piece, so the kid gloves with which he handled that rough crew apparently did their gentle job.
Wellesley High School principal Jamie Chisum worked the gong, as usual, warning teams when there were only five seconds left to complete the spelling of their given word. After an afternoon of participating in Active Shooter Training at Wellesley High School, I imagine that gong was a good stress reliever. He should be allowed to take it home with him until the next Bee. Thanks for all you do, Principal Chisum.
Congratulations to the winning team and also to all the hardworking volunteers, especially Wellesley Education Foundation Co-Presidents Erica Recht and Susan Ryan and 2017 Bee Co-Chairs Becca Cahaly and Eunice Groark. “I think the way the Bee touches every aspect of our community is what makes it so special,” said Groark. “It’s the kind of event that people come and enjoy year after year.”