Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

“Can you use that in a sentence?” Carleton holds first-ever student Spelling Bee last Friday

<st Friday, May 16, saw a piece of Carleton history being made when Campus Activities sponsored the school’s first student spelling bee. The bee began in the Chapel at 7 p.m. with twenty-nine contestants. Two and a half hours later, the field had been narrowed from the originally twenty-nine to three tenacious freshmen: Garrett Miller, Molly Nichols, and John Cossette.

The bee was the brainchild of sophomore Julia Bradley, who had the idea for the event last fall. Bradley ran her idea by Chris Rasinen of campus activities, and the project was taken up by Bradley, sophomore Vivyan Tran, and East-side hall director Nadine Sunderland. Bradley said that one of their goals was to make the event “as much like the Scripps National Spelling Bee as possible,” with the notable exception that the National Bee excludes contestants who are over 15 or beyond the eighth grade. The contestants in Carleton’s spelling bee were given words taken from the website of the Scripps bee in order to ensure that it mimicked the format of national bee. “We took the list of the most frequently occurring words,” said Julia, “and chose 30 or 40 words from each letter to make a 600-word list for the contestants to study.” All the words used in the competition came from that list, although contestants were informed that if the list was exhausted, other words might be used as well.

Carleton has a history of harboring gifted spellers. Alum Emily Stagg competed in the National Spelling Bee three times, finishing as high as 6th out of 249 contestants. Emily is also one of the subjects of the film Spellbound, a 2002 documentary that focused on the journey of seven young contestants to the Scripps National Bee. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a lot of other contestants who had competed in the National Bee,” said Bradley, “there are some pretty good spellers here.” Bradley’s predictions were supported by the performance of the bee’s twenty-nine contestants: no single round saw any undue amount of eliminations.

Students and faculty alike volunteered to help officiate the event. Sophomore Sam Robson was one of five volunteer judges. “My job consisted mostly of timing the responses,” said Robson. Classics professor Jackson Bryce did all of the pronunciation for the bee. Robson commented on his voice, calling it “perfect” for the event. Bradley concurred, adding, “he had a lot of fun with it.”

“A lot of fun” was a common descriptor of Carleton’s first spelling bee. Bradley observed that “three to four rows on each side of the chapel” were full of spectators, and that “most people stayed” for the end of the competition. Contestants who were eliminated early on joined the spectators, and the crowd would cheer or moan at the end of each attempt. In the end, Garrett Miller correctly spelled “terraceous” to clinch the grand prize, a $300 airline voucher, in spite of the fact that this was the first time he had ever been in a spelling bee. Nichols and Cossette battled for several more rounds for second place, with Nichols eventually taking home the win, and the second-place prize of $150 Schillers.

Bradley said that she would definitely like to make the spelling bee a yearly event. Improvements for the future would include a slightly harder word list, and a projector to display bios of the contestants during their turns. “I really enjoyed watching” said sophomore spectator Sarah Crump. “Hopefully it is something that will become a Carleton tradition.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *