Samuel Fetters’ mouth curled into a small smile when he heard the word “pinafore.” It was the final round of the Martha’s Vineyard All-Island Spelling Bee and the West Tisbury school seventh grader was the only speller left. Sam spelled without hesitation, securing a victory and his second consecutive trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
Six champions from spelling bees at every Island school competed in the island-wide competition Friday morning at the Performing Arts Center. The event and trip to Washington is sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Times.
In addition to Sam, fourth grader Volkert Kleeman (charter school), fifth grader Kestutis Biskis (Chilmark school), eighth grader Avery Simmons (Edgartown school), sixth grader Hannah Murphy (Oak Bluffs school) and sixth grader Mateo Darack (Tisbury school) took the stage.
Words like dogma, jute, hibachi, kahuna, gondola and wiseacre were spelled and misspelled before an audience of parents, teachers and classmates.
Schools superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea, one of the judges, congratulated all the spellers after Sam clinched the victory.
“Spelling is not an easy thing,” he said. “I’m an avid sports fan and sometimes I still have trouble spelling ESPN.”
Sam’s strategy is to approach each word individually, he said. Last year at nationals, the strategy served him well as he made it through the third round, never misspelling a word. Sam was eliminated, however, because of a low score on the written vocabulary and spelling test, a part of the competition that is not televised.
Pleased with his performance on Friday, Sam has now set his focus on the national competition in May. His strategy?
“Study harder, do better,” he said.