PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Defending champion Mitchell Robson, an eighth-grader at St. John’s Prep, battled it out in the final round of the 31st Annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee Friday night in Lynn.
BY MICHELE DURGIN
LYNN — After four hours and more than 400 words, the 31st Annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee was called at 10:30 p.m Friday night, well past bedtime of the contestants — without a winner.
The two finalists, St. John’s Prep eighth-grader Mitchell Robson from Marblehead and Ashrita Gandhari, a third-grader at St. Michael School in North Andover, will resume the contest at a yet-to-be determined later date.
Held at Lynn City Hall Auditorium, the bee featured spellers from North Shore schools.
Before the event commenced, the 44 participants were anxious and excited as they ate pizza at the Pre-Bee Pizza Party sponsored by Fauci’s Pizza in Lynn.
Torin Anderson, a fifth-grader from Johnson School in Nahant, was happy to be in the competition and proud to represent his school.
“I would love to win and go to Washington, D.C.” he said.
Torin won the bee at his school when he spelled “splendid.”
Robson, from St. John’s Prep, punched his ticket to the bee with the word “unau” at his school’s contest in November and has been anxious for the night to arrive. A unau is a two-toed sloth.
“I’m feeling very prepared and I know I must be cautious and take my time,” he said.
This is Mitchell’s third year participating. “I’ve been studying for most of the year and I would love to go back to the Nationals in Washington and win,” he added.
First year participant and third-grader John Barry from the Beachmont School in Revere was excited to go on stage and represent his school and his family.
“Knowing that I’m one of the youngest kids here makes me nervous, but I’m excited and proud that I made it this far,” he said.
John was also happy that his parents and sister, Elizabeth, along with a neighbor, were in the audience to cheer him on.
Sofia Valencia, a sixth-grader from the Higgins Middle School in Peabody, earned her spot in Friday night’s bee with the word “paprika.”
“I hope I can do just as well as I did at my school’s bee,” she said. “I’ve studied a lot. My mom is proud of me. She said ‘Just do your best.’ I am so excited.”
Brady Bullock, a fifth-grader representing the Lynn Woods School, is one of the youngest competitors of the night.
“I’m happy to be here,” Brady said. “I hope I don’t get out on my first word. My parents, grandparents and my auntie are in the audience to see me. They told me to try my best and have fun.”
Judge Kathleen Shaughnessy, an eighth grade teacher at KIPP Academy in Lynn, was looking forward to the event and said,”I like to see excellence happen and that’s why I’m here. I am hoping to see a great competition.”
Judge Karen Hynick, vice president of academic affairs at North Shore Community College, said she was proud to be involved and added,”I am looking forward to seeing the academic promise of our youth.”
Fausto Cabrera, the father of 10-year-old speller Daileny Torres, was thrilled to be at the bee and proud that it is her second time at the event.
“We’ve been studying together and she’s ready, Cabrera said. “Last year, she placed in the top 20. I am so happy for her. She’s self-motivated and wants to be a surgeon. She’s been reading since the age of 2 and is an excellent role model for her two younger sisters.”
Phil Ouellette of The Item and host of the event, thanked the sponsors, judges, coordinators, teachers and parents who brought the participants to the contest. He also expressed gratitude to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the city of Lynn for hosting the bee.
Deputy Superintendent of Schools Jaye Warry told the spellers, “I am honored to be here on behalf of the superintendent. I wish each of you the best of luck and remember there are lots of people here who love and support you. Good luck.”
Pronouncer William McGuinness, an AP social studies teacher at Lynn English High School, stepped to the podium and said, “You are already champions. Enjoy yourselves.”
Joel and Mary Abramson of Flagship Travel have sponsored the bee for the last three years.
“The participants have grown from 28 to 46 in the past three years and I hope it continues,” Joel Abramson said. “I would love these kids to spread the word to put down the mobile devices and pick up a book.”