Show of Skill

GLOVERSVILLE – After a little more than an hour, the field of the Fulton County Spelling Bee’s best spellers was narrowed to two: last year’s winner, Maggy Lambo, and Katie Ammann.

In the end, it was Ammann who came out on top after spelling “embattled” for the win.

As the winner of the county bee – organized and sponsored by The Leader-Herald – the Knox Junior High School seventh-grader will go to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 25 through 30.

The 22nd annual Fulton County Spelling Bee began at 6:30 p.m. Monday with 36 spellers from county elementary and middle schools on stage in the Gloversville Middle School auditorium. The bee is open to Fulton County students in grades four through eight.

Within an hour, the competition was down to the final five. About 20 minutes later, the competition was down to the final three competitors, leaving Miles Compani, a sixth-grader from Broadalbin-Perth Middle School, Lambo, a Mayfield Junior/Senior High School seventh-grader, and Ammann.

Forty-one words later, Compani was thought to be eliminated after stumbling on the word “poppies.” However, he was brought back to the stage after it was discovered he was presented a word from an additional spelling list in the middle of a round.

After three more rounds, Compani was officially eliminated after misspelling the word “collate,” leaving the former champion Lambo to take on Ammann.

It took five additional words to declare Ammann the winner after Lambo spelled “tirade” incorrectly, opening the door for Ammann to spell “embattled” for the win.

The Ammann family is familiar with winning the county bee.

Katie’s brother Kevin won the competition in 2010.

This was Katie’s first victory, but she had made it to the final five once before since she started participating in the competition in fourth grade.

“I’m really happy to win, but I think [Maggy] and Miles did very well,” Katie Ammann said. “I could tell they studied a lot by the way it was going.”

Katie attributed her success to her previous experience in the bee and the help of her Johnstown teachers, who provide her with spelling lists during the year.

Ammann’s parents, Paul and Deb Ammann, said they are proud of their daughter for making it to the finals and earning a trip to Washington.

Her older brother Kevin was excited to see his little sister continue in the family’s footsteps.

“It feels really good to see her win, and I’m really glad she is following the legacy,” he said.

The youngest Ammann, fourth-grader Shawn, was also in this year’s competition, and both he and Katie will return for a shot at next year’s spelling title. Her brother Ryan also previously competed in the spelling bee.

Their mother, Deb Ammann, said her children’s interest in books and reading is why the family is so consistently competitive in the spelling competitions.

“They all read and I think that’s why they are such good spellers,” Deb Ammann said.

Katie and the rest of the Ammann family are looking forward to a fun experience in the nation’s capital now that “they know the lay of the land,” her father, Paul Ammann, said.

The other top finishers at the county bee were: Compani, third place; Kelsey Hinderliter, fourth place; and Kathy Tran, fifth place.

All of the contestants were the winners of their local spelling bees at Fulton County schools.

The pronouncer for the county bee was Lena Andersson, assistant professor in English at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

The judges were Tim Fonda, managing editor at The Leader-Herald; Maura Keuhling, advertising consultant at The Leader-Herald; and Jane Kelley, vice president for student affairs at FMCC.

Each speller received a backpack with items donated by supporters of the bee.

The winner and second-place speller received a dictionary, and the top five spellers received Chamber Checks.

The Leader-Herald will pay for Ammann and one parent’s trip to the capital.

Levi Pascher can be reached at lpascher@leaderherald.com.