With ‘Duress,’ Millhopper Montessori Student Becomes Alachua County’s Spelling Champion


After two hours, it was the 11th round and down to the final two contestants.

Vivie Thelin’s competitor sat down for misspelling the word rialto. It was Vivie’s chance to win it all. She stepped up with her mismatched purple and black knee-high socks and spelled the word tyrannical. She got it right.

Vivie had to spell one more word to win: duress.

No problem.

And so Vivie, 13, from Millhopper Montessori Middle School, was crowned champion on Wednesday at the Alachua County Schools District Spelling Bee.

She said she had been practicing since early December.  “I would just ask my family words, just use whatever words they could think of,” said Thelin, who turns 14 on Friday.

Shivi Tripathi of Williams Elementary School took second place.

For the 40 finalists in Wednesday’s bee, ranging in age from 10 to 14, the journey began in the comfort of their school classroom. As winners of their class’s bee, they qualified for the school’s bee, which was held in December. Each school’s winners were then sent to the county bee.

This year Oak View Middle School, First Christian Academy and Community Christian HomeSchoolers were tied in bringing two finalists to the county bee.

The Alachua County Public Schools District Spelling Bee has been held for more than 60 years, with a consistent number of boys and girls taking part.

Don Fitzpatrick, a 48-year-old curriculum specialist for secondary English and Language Arts, helps conduct it. “I love language and celebrating successes,” he said.

He said the bee’s purpose is to help the students improve their spelling, increase their vocabulary and develop English skills “that will help them all their lives.”

Vivie will represent Alachua County at the First Coast Regional Spelling Bee in Jacksonville on Feb. 27.

On Wednesday, she nearly stumbled earlier in the bee, when she got the word jeepney. “I did not know,” she said. “I tried to spell it out on my arm.”

Vivie asked for a definition. “They said it was like a vehicle and I thought because it said Jeep, I thought, well, maybe I’ll spell it like the Jeep car,” she said.

About Hannah Rarick

Hannah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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