Bristol 8th-grader wins Tribune Chronicle spelling bee

Isabella Pinto, 13, an eighth-grade student at Bristol High School, center, won the the 27th annual Tribune Chronicle Spelling Bee on Monday at Kent State University at Trumbull. With her are Dr. Lance Grahn, dean and chief administrative officer at KSU at Trumbull, left, and Charles R. Jarvis, publisher of the Tribune Chronicle. Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple

CHAMPION — After 23 rounds and nearly 200 words, Bristol High School eighth-grader Isabella Pinto was crowned the top speller Monday at the 27th annual Tribune Chronicle Spelling Bee.

Pinto, 13, correctly spelled “wedel” and “witloof” to win the bee at Kent State University at Trumbull.

The event had 35 public and parochial school kids in grades three to eight spelling assorted words for nearly 90 minutes.

Pinto said she spent five hours Sunday practicing her spelling in addition to her daily spelling work at school and at home.

“My mom helped me the most because we studied together. I would study for awhile by myself and then my mom would give me the words to spell. I think I studied this time more than I have before. I knew I wanted to do better than I did before so I thought I need to work harder,” Pinto said.

She said her teachers and family provided her the most help and support.

Mackenzie Pinto said her daughter put in a lot of time studying for the bee.

“I know she practiced spelling five hours on Sunday. Everywhere she went for the past six or seven weeks she had a notebook with her. She studied at school, in study hall and at lunch,” she said.

This was the last year Pinto, who placed fourth in 2016 and in 2017, was eligible to compete in the bee.

For her victory, she will receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals May 29-31.

She also received a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged online, a Samuel Louis Sugarman Award of a 2018 United States Mint Proof Set, a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium and a $25 gift card from the Tribune Chronicle.

The runner-up was Kaden Paniagua, 13, a seventh-grade student at Champion Middle School. He will receive a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, and a $25 gift card, also from the newspaper.

Third place was Daniel Naddour, 9, a fourth-grade student at John F. Kennedy Lower Campus, and finishing fourth was last year’s champion, Jeremy Slywczak, 13, a seventh-grader at Badger Middle School. Both received $25 gift certificates from the Tribune Chronicle.

Spelling bee winners run in the Paniagua family, as Kaden’s older brother, Parker, competed in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

“I studied for the bee by writing all the words out on paper. As I am writing the word I spell it out,” said Kaden Paniagua.

Naddour said he studied a lot, as did his older brother, Mark Naddour, 11, a seventh-grader at JFK’s Upper Campus, who also competed in the bee.

Slywczak said he has one more year to compete in the spelling bee and plans to try again next year.

Dr. Lance Grahn, dean and chief administrative officer at KSU at Trumbull, presented a $4,000 scholarship pledge to KSU at Trumbull to Pinto; a $2,000 scholarship pledge to Paniagua; and $1,000 scholarship pledges to Naddour and Slywczak.

Because Pinto placed fourth in the 2016 and 2017 bees, she has $6,000 pledged to KSU at Trumbull and because Slywczak was the bee winner in 2017, he has $7,000 pledged.

“This is a marvelous event that showcases such outstanding talent of the area students,” Grahn said.

He said KSU at Trumbull will have the four appear on an electronic billboard on the state Route 711 connector.

“We are going to make stars of all you,” Grahn said.