Health Advances once again wins Wellesley Education Foundation Spelling Bee

Wellesley Spelling Bee
Congratulations to winning team Health Advances. Left to right, Master of Ceremonies Mike Dowling, Valerie Enriquez, Melissa Lowder, and Laura Gullett.


Team Health Advances did it in 2015 with the word “threnody” (definition: a song, hymn, or poem of mourning composed as a memorial to a dead person. Also a fictional character created by Marvel Comics for the X-Men series).

Last night, Health Advances once more took home the coveted Wellesley Education Foundation Spelling Bee trophy by beating out the six other teams that made it to the Final Round. Winners Melissa Lowder (her second time on the Bee podium), Laura Gullett, and Valerie Enriquez out-spelled them all with the word adactylous, a medical term that means being without fingers or toes. The ability to spell is not affected by this condition.

55 teams studied joined in on the fundraiser, which raised over $63,000 to provide enrichment programs for the Wellesley Public Schools. Some teams study, stress, and fret for weeks, determined to at least make it to the final round. Other teams glance through the study book a few times but mostly just sit back and enjoy the fun. Each team of three competitors pays a $500 fee to compete.

Wellesley Spelling Bee
Um, that’s not the way you spell Elwy. Oops.


On the big night, 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 whiteboard within 25 seconds, and holds it up for the judges. This year’s sharp-eyed team was Superintendent David Lussier; Joan Dabrowski, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning; and WMS Principal Mark Ito. WHS Principal Jamie Chisum kept the time clock and worked the gong.

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.

Wellesley Spelling Bee
Judges, left to right: WMS Principal Mark Ito; Joan Dabrowski, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning; Superintendent David Lussier; WHS Principal Jamie Chisum

Mike Dowling, long-time Boston sports reporter who has been working the Bee for 29 years (!), called words like phloem, fliggertigibbet, posthumous, ogive, tonsillitis, kaleidoscope, and concatenate. Teams were dropped quickly this year, with no real knock-down, drag-out spell-downs. Words were called and teams got stumped, generally within four words. The vocabulary never reached the lofty heights of last year, when teams went head-to-head with stumpers like ekistics, rocaille, swaraj, naphtha, and deltiology.

Nevertheless, the spirit was strong at the bee, as shown by Team Spirit award-winners the Freshman Class Officers team, or Scooby Doo, Shaggy, and Thelma, as everybody else knows them.

Wellesley Spelling Bee
There was no mystery as to why the Team Spirit award went to the WHS Freshman Class Officers team. Photo credit: George Roberts

My personal favorite team names: WHS Cross Country Team, eXCellent Spellers and Wellesley United Soccer Club, Game of Throw Ins. As long as we’re talking about soccer, congratulations to the WHS boys soccer team’s 3 -0 win over Lincoln-Sudbury in Wednesday’s Division 1 state semifinal.

And congratulations to all the spellers and to WEF.

Here’s Wellesley Public Media’s recording of the Bee: