On Friday, February 24, the students of Harwood Union Middle School gathered in the Harwood auditorium to witness the HUMS Spelling Bee Championship. There were about 20 participants in this year’s competition, as determined through qualifying rounds in language arts classes. Seventh-grade participants included Noah Eckstein, Colin Fennelly, Kathryn Pilliod, Phoebe Pacheco, Austin Taylor, Chloe Riven, Jashca Herlihy, Luc Baron, Cameron Andrews and Christian Torsell.

Eighth-grade participants included Curtis Wilcox, Trevor Hallam, Travis Streeter, Cory Dalsimer, Olivia Wimble, Ben Friedman, Ben Read, Gus Lockett, Anna Van Dine, Caleb Hoyne and Nina Sklar. The guest pronouncer this year was spelling coach Judi Gross, who led her spelling team to a regional victory last fall. Gross has graciously volunteered to work with the school champion to prepare for the state bee in March.

All of this year's competitors have one thing in common: They are exceptional spellers – even under pressure. The majority of them participated in several completely flawless rounds. After seven rounds of competition, it finally came down to the last two spellers standing and they were both seventh-graders.

Kathryn Pilliod and Noah Eckstein went head to head in the final sudden death rounds. Both spellers nailed some extremely challenging words in the duel, but ultimately Kathryn Pilliod was victorious and is the 2012 HUMS spelling bee champion. Kathryn will represent Harwood at the Scripp’s Vermont State Spelling Bee on Wednesday, March 14. Pilliod and 43 other champions from around the state will convene at St. Michael’s College to compete for the state championship title. The winner of the state contest will head down to Washington, DC, to represent Vermont in the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee competition in May.