Hooper claims victory as Wellsville’s spelling champion

Wellsville seventh grader Connor Hooper stood at the microphone at Thursday’s Wellsville Spelling Bee, held at the Wellsville High School auditeria, while sixth grader Aliya Boso watched on. Hooper claimed his second consecutive school bee championship Thursday by correctly spelling “toucan”, while Boso was the school bee’s runner-up. Both spellers, along with third place speller Colton Carter, will compete at the Columbiana County Spelling Bee on March 7 at the David Anderson High School Auditorium in Lisbon. (Photo by Steve Rappach)

WELLSVILLE — To use one of his words from Thursday’s Wellsville Spelling Bee at the high school auditeria, seventh grader Connor Hooper sailed on the “yacht” to victory to become a back-to-back school champion.

Needing just five words total, Hooper outspelled 32 other participants in the district bee to win his second consecutive district championship and will return to the Columbiana County Spelling Bee next month.

The top three spellers qualified for spots in the county bee — scheduled March 7 at the David Anderson High School in Lisbon — while fourth place will serve as an alternate.

Hooper correctly spelled “yacht,” “rupee,” “influenza,” and “parmesan” before spelling “toucan” to win the district’s top prize. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “toucan” is “any of a family of chiefly fruit-eating birds of tropical America with brilliant coloring and a very large but light and thin-walled bill.”

Hooper acknowledged he had a little bit of nervousness going in to Thursday’s bee.

“I can’t describe it, but everytime I was close to getting up, I was, just, really nervous,” Hooper said.

Returning for his third trip to the county bee, Hooper said he will continue to study in preparation, knowing the competition is going to be difficult.

“I think it’s just as tough as it has been as the first year,” Hooper said.

Also earning spots in the March 7 competition were runner-up Aliah Boso and third-place finisher Colton Carter, both of whom are in the sixth grade and will advance to the county bee for the first time.

Another sixth grader, Ryan Ehler, finished fourth, and earned the district’s alternate spot. In the event Hooper, Boso or Carter are unable to compete, Ehler will participate in their place.

Starting with 33 spellers, just 16 advanced on to round two, while round three consisted of six spellers. Following round three, only Hooper and Boso remained.

Boso, coincidentally competing as speller no. 2 on Thursday, correctly spelled “decoy,” “flemish,” and “isobar” before competing in the spell-off with Hooper. When it came to the spell-off, however, Boso incorrectly spelled “toboggan,” clearing the way for Hooper to spell “parmesan” and “toucan” to win the title.

Boso said she is looking forward to going to her first county bee, and said that leading up to Thursday’s competition, she prepared with the help of her mother, while also fending off nervousness.

“I’m feeling really proud of myself because I didn’t really know if I could be able to get that far, but I’m really happy,” Boso said. “My mom helped out a lot, she helped me study.”

Although also eliminated in the third round, both Ehler and Carter earned fourth and third, respectively, on account of being among the final four remaining on stage at the time.

Carter correctly spelled “karate” and “spaghetti,” but misspelled “quiche” to take third. Carter acknowledged he didn’t quite prepare for the bee as well as he should have, but said he will be doing so for the March 7 competition.

“Really excited, but at the same time, really nervous because I’m going to be facing a lot of new people, new faces and that makes me nervous,” Carter said. “I know there’s going to be harder words, and I didn’t study for this one, and I still came in the top four. So I know that I will have to study for the next one.”

Prior to Carter’s elimination, Ehler misspelled “parfait” to take fourth place and the alternate spot. He had correctly spelled “refugee” and “lilac,” the latter of which caused a little confusion when the bell to signify an incorrect spelling was mistakenly rung. Judges shortly after acknowledged he was correct.

After the bee, Ehler said he was glad to place in the position he did, considering how he missed the alternate spot last year.

“Last year, when I attempted this, this is where I was eliminated, so I just wanted to prove that I could make it past this,” Ehler said.

Ehler also dedicated his performance to his grandfather, who had passed away a year ago, and on the anniversary of his grandfather’s passing, he hoped he made his family proud.

“The main reason I really studied hard in all of this is because this is the month my grandpa passed last year, and so I want to prove this,” Ehler said.

Stacey Beck served as the bee’s pronunciator, while Garfield Elementary principal Lisa Ferguson was the bee’s moderator.

The Columbiana County Spelling Bee is presented annually by The Review, Morning Journal, Salem News, and the Columbiana County Educational Service Center.