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Thrilling EPCUSD 401 Spelling Bee ends with a new champion

Spelling Bee competitors on stage
EPCUSD 401 Family & Community Engagement Team

Sam Britten, Marketing & Publishing Specialist
Dave Porreca, Communications & Social Media Specialist

Ailment. Fiddlehead. Conjunto. These are some of the words spelled at Thursday night’s annual spelling bee. 

Forty total rounds. That’s how many rounds it took to declare a champion. 

In the end, a new victor was crowned. Seventh grader Klarita Kouria takes home the honor this year. 

“Pretty good,” Kouria said when asked how it feels to have won. “I don’t know what I can say about it.”

While Kouria took first place, an incredible effort was put on by the other students representing their schools. Second place was a familiar name:  eighth grader and two-time champion Kate Kondela. Third place went to a younger competitor, Elmwood fourth grader Tristian Peters-Hampton. 

The top three spellers in this year's spelling bee

The top three finishers (left to right), Tristian Peters-Hampton, Klarita Kouria and Kate Kondela (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)

The entire list of participants is as follows:


  • Marta Dabrowski
  • Klarita Kouria
  • Kate Kondela
  • Santiago Vasquez
  • Alexandria Butler


  • Tristan Peters-Hampton
  • Emmanuel Salgado
  • Silayda Robles
  • Vincent Falcon
  • Elena Mascari
  • Cruz Harper
  • Addie Jimenez
  • Victor Morales

John Mills

  • Marjorie Shanahan
  • Luisangel Trujillo
  • Makayla Figueroa
  • Mauricio Alcala
  • Sylvia Dabrowski
  • Terry Armstrong
  • Joel Gutierrez
  • Penelope Padilla
Spelling Bee competitors

The competitors pose for a picture after the conclusion of the spelling bee (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)

The yearly competition began at Elmwood Elementary School at 6 PM. For more than two and a half hours, a group of proud spectators sat in the gym and watched the competitors use their brainpower to spell their way to the top. 

From midcourt, John Mills Principal Frank Kuzniewski gave the students their challenge. 

A competitor would step to the front of the stage, adjust the microphone to their height and learn the word they needed to spell that round.

Sighs of relief or sighs of frustration often escaped the speller’s mouth as they learned if they would continue in the contest. 

Alas, those sighs of frustration should be short-lived. EPCUSD 401 cannot express how proud we all are of the students who participated in this year’s spelling bee. The amount of time it took to declare a winner speaks volumes about how fierce the competition was. 

“I think this is the longest spelling bee we’ve ever encountered,” said Elmwood Assistant Principal Stephanie Hagins. “The students were so fantastic, it really is a testament to how much work they all put in.”

Kouria will represent the district at the West 40 ISC Scripps Spelling Bee on March 5. The event will be held at E.F. Lindop School in Broadview. Congratulations to all of the students who participated!

To view more pictures of Elm spelling bee competitors, click here

To view more pictures of Elmwood spelling bee competitors, click here

To view more pictures of John Mills spelling bee competitors, click here.

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