Alec Gallahan, an eighth-grade student from Mattawoman Middle School, clinched the championship title at the 2023 Charles County Spelling Bee on Thursday, March 9. He correctly spelled the word “valedictorian” to take home the top prize.

Gallahan will now move on to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held this summer at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor. More than 200 spellers from around the country will participate in the national contest. The semifinals will air on ION on June 1, and the finals will be broadcast on June 2.

To qualify for the national competition, Gallahan had to outspell 39 of his middle school peers from schools around the county. The students in the local Bee were the best middle school spellers in Charles County, having first competed at the school level, then taken an online spelling exam before earning a chair at the in-person Bee.

The final round of the Bee saw Gallahan and Alex Dusterwald of Archbishop Neale School face off, with Gallahan emerging as the victor. Dusterwald and his ANS teammates were named the Top Team in this year’s Bee. The award is given to the team that earns the most points in the online test and for words spelled correctly in each round. ANS gathered 56 points to come in first with Mattawoman and Benjamin Stoddert middle schools tying for second place with 54 points each.

The competition not only hones a student’s spelling skills but also benefits other aspects of their education. “The competition encourages the exploration of words and lifelong curiosity, with a focus on helping students set goals and dedicate time to study and preparation,” said John Tompkins, CCPS content specialist for middle school language arts. “Participation in the Bee program also provides an opportunity for students to gain experience in public speaking and displaying poise under pressure.”

Below is a list of students who made it to the 2023 Charles County Public Schools Spelling Bee.

  • Theodore G. Davis Middle School — Xavier Obannon, sixth grade, Alexandra Powell, eighth grade, Mart Elam Lofranco, sixth grade, and Kayman Burwell, eighth grade. (Lofranco and Burwell did not attend the local Bee.) Kimberle Johnson is the coach.
  • John Hanson Middle School — Kyndel Tucker, sixth grade, Karaganne Burroughs, seventh grade, Aydin Jones, seventh grade, and Ikari Joseph, eighth grade. Jennifer Biegner is the coach.
  • Matthew Henson Middle School — Makayla McCall, Amir Rushdan, Syriana Stitt and Isabella Wilburg, all seventh grade. Debby Holder is the coach.
  • Mattawoman Middle School — Brent Travers, sixth grade, Alec Gallahan, eighth grade, Dennis Harrison, eighth grade, and Alexander Nguyen, eighth grade. Christina Washington and Jody Bell are the coaches.
  • Piccowaxen Middle School — Olivia Schmelzer, sixth grade, Janae Northington, seventh grade, Karis Pilkerton, seventh grade, and Aubrey Vogel, seventh grade. Coaches are Amber Sullivan and Nancy Buter.
  • General Smallwood Middle School — Nhu Quynh Vo Phan, seventh grade, Myles Alexander, eighth grade, and Sanya Sitoula, eighth grade. McKenzie Rodriguez is the coach.
  • Milton M. Somers Middle School — Jayden Hill, seventh grade, Rebecca Johnson, seventh grade, Jhourni Jones, eighth grade, and Addison Kelly, eighth grade. Valerie Amend and Fara Walent are the coaches.
  • Benjamin Stoddert Middle School — Kaylee Paulk, seventh grade, Genevieve Macean-Heath, eighth grade, Aaron Nguyen, eighth grade, and Camila Rivera Lemus, eighth grade. Danielle Smith is the coach.
  • Archbishop Neale School — Tejas Suri, seventh grade, Dylan Wilkerson, seventh grade, Alex Dusterwald, eighth grade, and Joshua Vincent, eighth grade. Denise Oglesby and Susan Gardiner are the coaches.  
  • Southern Maryland Christian Academy — Addison Huffer, sixth grade, Angelo Milazzo, sixth grade, Selah Wolfe, eight grade, and Kaylee Strickland, eighth grade. (Strickland did not attend the Bee.) Kari King is the coach.  
  • St. Peter’s School — Mikaela Schnaubert, sixth grade, Christiana Williams, sixth grade, Gregory Avila, seventh grade, Grace McCourt-Santos, seventh grade. Kelli Schmidt is the coach.

Congratulations to Alec Gallahan on his impressive win, and good luck to him as he moves on to compete at the national level!


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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