Calumet eighth-grader wins Upper Peninsula Spelling Bee

Lowell Torola, an eighth-grader at Washington Middle School in Calumet, is the winner of the Upper Peninsula Spelling Bee. He won the title on Wednesday at Negaunee High School. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

NEGAUNEE — Spelling the word “Vatican” correctly made Lowell Torola, an eighth-grader at Washington Middle School in Calumet, this year’s winner of the Upper Peninsula Community Education Association’s Spelling Bee on Wednesday at Negaunee High School.

Torola now goes on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

He was the finalist in the eighth-grade division, defeating the other finalists from their respective grades: Charles Henry, seventh grade, Bothwell Middle School, Marquette, second place; Sarah Lauzon, fifth grade, Ironwood Area Schools, third place; and Bethany Green, sixth grade, Houghton Middle School, fourth place.

Torola also gave credit to the second-place finisher in the eighth-grade division, Nikolas Thomas of the Ewen-Trout Creek Consolidated School District, who he said was a tough competitor.

“He was outstanding as well,” Torola said.

The Calumet student was emotional after his win, following his third-place finish as a sixth-grader.

“I thought coming into this year, it was like, ‘It’s my last chance, so I might want to take advantage of it,” Torola said. “It’s amazing.”

Spelling seems to run in the Torola blood as he said other members of his family had previously qualified for the National Bee as well.

“Kind of a spelling family, I guess,” he said. “They call us the Spelling Torolas.”

In the finals, the four students had to spell words like “Arthurian,” “mahogany,” “contiguous” and “foliage.”

After being given a word, they had the options of asking for a definition and its use in a sentence.

Bill Hartman, director of the Community Education Division of the Ishpeming, Negaunee and NICE school districts, said this year marked the 38th Upper Peninsula Spelling Bee.

“Kids really get to study a lot of difficult words,” Hartman said, with the students putting in many hours of preparation.

Hartman said the “stump list” list included some particularly hard words, such as “telegnosis” and “greenockite.”

“Sometimes it takes some difficult words to eliminate the speller,” Hartman said.

Difficult words didn’t eliminate Torola this year.

“In the eighth-grade stump list there were some words that I didn’t know,” Torola said. “I didn’t know at all. I had never seen them before, never heard anything like them. I just had to visualize them in my head and see if I could piece them together.”

The participants in Wednesday’s spelling bee also had to win four competitions to reach the finals.

The finalists received a variety of prizes, but among Torola’s rewards were a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and round-trip transportation for the student and a parent to attend the National Spelling Bee, along with lodging and other trip expenses.

Sponsors included several Ogden Newspapers Inc., publications: The Mining Journal in Marquette, The Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, The Daily Press in Escanaba and The Daily News in Iron Mountain.

Hartman also mentioned the effort the parents put in to help their kids.

“They have to spend many, many hours with their children with these words,” Hartman said, “and I know they enjoy it very much, and it seems like even when they walk away, they have a sense of accomplishment that, ‘Hey, my child was a winner anyway.’ And that’s true.”