Today's Date
19 November 2017
Back Row: Jordan Austin (11), Tom Pampalone (10), Adam Kielbasa (11), Marissa McCollum (11), Alex Kielbasa (9). Front Row: Ayana Nalls (11), Miranda Price (10), Elizabeth Cooley (11), Danielle Collins (12), Beth Azcona (11), Kathryn Strimbu (11). Not Pictured: Kori Witherspoon (11), Dimitri Dovellos (12).

Spelling with the Best: Defending 2015 State Champs Earn State Runner-Up Title for 2016

Going into the State Championship, this year’s spell bowl team was fairly confident in their ability to defend last year’s State title. However, after a slow start, the team fell to Greencastle High School by seven words. The team was in fourth place after the sixth round of State but was able to climb up to second place by spelling the last 38 words correctly, ending with a final score of 64 out of a possible 90 points. The last four spellers, Adam Kielbasa (11), Kathryn Strimbu (11), Marissa McCollum (11), and Danielle Collins (12), all had perfect rounds.

Spell bowl coach Mary Kopil said that while she is proud of her team, she believes they could have managed first place. “I actually think that the ability level of this year’s team was higher than last year’s,” Kopil said. “I guess if I look at it from that perspective, I could have expected to get first, since we got first last year. But at the same time, I also have to look at the fact that we lost a good number of seniors last year, so we had a larger percentage of kids who were new to spell bowl… If I take that into consideration, then I would say that a second place finish is very respectable.”

Speller Adam Kielbasa shared the sentiment that having an even ratio of rookies to veterans on the team was a weakness going into the competition. “Realistically… it’s a high-stress situation, and, you know, it might have been their first time going down for a big academic competition, so… yeah, I expected them to do just about as good as they did,” Kielbasa said.

Kopil also felt that in hindsight, there was another aspect of the season that could have gone differently. “We have a lot of people on our spell bowl team this year that are involved in multiple activities, and… sometimes we had people who weren’t at practice for various reasons,” Kopil said. Having fewer members at practice put more pressure on each individual to put in his or her own time to really get down to studying. Regardless, Kopil is already looking for ways to improve next year’s outcome.

“Danielle, she was a big driving force on our team, she was a big motivator, and she was basically a guaranteed nine for most of the competitions, so it’s gonna be tough,” Kielbasa said. Despite this, Kopil is still confident in the abilities of the returning members.

“Danielle is a big loss. She has been an anchor of our team for the last few years… but we also have a strong nucleus from this year and last year. We have a lot of juniors who are ready to step up and take her place,” Kopil said. After losing over half of last year’s team to the Andrean Class of 2016, Kopil is certain that the loss of this year’s two seniors (Collins and Dimitri Dovellos) will be easier to come back from.

However, the main thing Kopil has been doing for next year is recruiting potential spell bowlers. “I’ve been putting the word out because it’s a way to get involved, to put something on your college application,” Kopil said. “It’s a season that is not long; they only have to be here from the beginning of the school year to the middle of November. There are only three competitions, two practices a week, [so] it’s not a humongous time commitment.”

Students interested in trying out for next year’s team will be able to pick up the list from Kopil when it comes out this spring. Potential spell bowlers are encouraged to study the list over the summer in preparation for the 30-word tryout in August. See Miss Mary Kopil in room 111 or email her at with any questions about joining the team.


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