GLOVERSVILLE - After more than two hours of competition, the field of the Fulton County Spelling Bee's best spellers was narrowed to two - sisters Molly and Maggy Lambo of Mayfield.
In the end, the younger of the two, sixth-grader Maggy, came out on top after spelling "reprehensible" correctly and going on to spell "pronouncement" for the win.
As the winner of the county bee - organized and sponsored by The Leader-Herald, Maggy will go to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 26 through 31.
The 21st annual Fulton County Spelling Bee began at 6:30 p.m. with 45 spellers from county elementary and middle schools on stage in the Gloversville Middle School auditorium.
By 8 p.m., the competition was down to the final five. About 30 minutes later, the competition was down to the final three competitors, leaving Miles Compani, a fifth- grader from Broadalbin-Perth Intermediate School, to square off against the Lambo sisters.
Forty minutes and 66 words later, Compani was eliminated after stumbling on the word "topeng."
Above, spelling bee winner Maggy Lambo, left, is given a hug by her sister and first runner-up Molly Lambo on stage at Gloversville Middle School at the Fulton County Spelling Bee on Monday.
The Leader-Herald/ Bill Trojan
For a long stretch, the Lambo sisters went back and forth, spelling every word correctly until the 28th word "defamation" was presented to Maggy.
She spelled the word incorrectly, giving her older sister Molly, an eighth-grader, the chance to claim the win with the word "guffaw." However, Molly failed to spell the word correctly.
The two of them went on to misspell the next six words, including "alias," "essayist," "snivel," "hermetic," "retribution" and "striated."
On the 40th word for the final two competitors, Molly misspelled the word "melodrama" to open the door for Maggy, who won by spelling "reprehensible" and "pronouncement" correctly.
Although Maggy was filled with joy after her victory, she said she wished her sister Molly was the winner because it was her final year of eligibility in the competition. The bee is open to Fulton County students in grades four through eight.
"It was kind of hard because this is my sister's last year and I kind of wanted her to win," Maggy said. "I thought I was going to do OK because I knew the words pretty well, but I didn't know I was going to win."
Maggy and Molly's parents, John and Nadine Lambo, said they are proud of both of their daughters for making it to the final two in the county spelling bee.
"They are both winners," Nadine Lambo said. "They both did really well."
"They both did an amazing job, and I am so proud of both of them," John Lambo said as his eyes began to swell with tears of joy. "I can't say much more; I am just so proud of both of them."
Both sisters said they practiced together for a couple hours every day to prepare for the competition.
Neither of the sisters has been to Washington, and both of them said they are looking forward to seeing many of the popular landmarks and museums at the nation's capital.
Molly said she was happy to see her younger sister win the competition.
Last year's winner, Adam Ferrari, who was in attendance Monday, said he expected the Lambo sisters to do well this year.
"I knew Molly was a great speller, and her sister was very good last year, so I said before they were going to 'rock the stage' and they did just that," Ferrari said. "I figured since they're sisters, they could help each other study to be ready; they did great."
The other top finishers at the county bee were Miles Compani, third place; and Danny Jarabek and Caitlin Murray, tied for fourth.
All of the contestants were the winners of their local spelling bees at Fulton County schools.
The pronouncer for the county bee was Dustin Swanger, president of Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The judges were Bill Ackerbauer, features editor at The Leader-Herald; James Hall, advertising representative for The Leader-Herald; and Jane Kelley, vice president for student affairs at FMCC.
Each speller received a backpack with items donated by supporters of the bee.
The winner and second-place speller received a dictionary, and the top five spellers received Chamber Checks.
Maggy was awarded the Edwin R. Gray cash award from the family of Thomas Steele, a previous bee winner.
The family of Adam Ferrari donated a Chamber Check award to each of the top five spellers.
The Leader-Herald will pay for Lambo and one parent's trip to the capital.
The newspaper began sponsoring the countywide competition 20 years ago. Before that, students had to compete in Schenectady, Publisher Patricia Beck said.