PORTLAND — No, she doesn’t care for Mexican food.

But that didn’t stop Lily Jordan of Cape Elizabeth from plowing through “chimichanga,” “quesadilla,” “chipotle” and “enchilada,” en route to a rather unfortunate final word – “salmonella” – to win the Maine State Spelling Bee on Saturday.

Jordan, a 7th-grader, topped 12 other county spelling champs to claim a trophy, a T-shirt, a very large dictionary and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the North American finals in June.

In the interest of full disclosure, Lily’s father, Glenn Jordan, is a sportswriter for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, which also sponsored the Maine State bee.

In Maine, 13 counties hold bees to find the elite (Jordan’s word in round 3) who have spelling expertise (Lily Koffman, Orono, round 5) and can roll through the rounds like a juggernaut (Emmanuel Gallucci, Winterport, round 11) while handling the angst (Gallucci, round 16) of spelling on command in front of friends and family in Hannaford Hall at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.
Foreign words, or words with non-English roots, tripped up quite a few of the spellers.

Mahi-mahi, the subtropical fish species, claimed one victim in the second round, while gordita, a type of tortilla, knocked out a speller in the third and purga – a Siberian snowstorm – caught another in round 8.

Sayonara meant an exit for another speller in round 12 and homburg – the hat – capped the day for Koffman in round 17. She had an endearing and apparently effective practice of spelling each word with her finger on her palm before reciting it for the judges, but she came up with “homberg” while in the final three.

That left Gallucci and Jordan to battle it out for the top spot.

Jordan landed “sevruga” (a species of sturgeon) surprisingly easily and Gallucci had no problem with “adjacent,” In Round 19, Jordan rolled through enchilada and Gallucci needed no help from above with “providence.” But in the next round, Jordan handled “meticulous” cleanly but Gallucci left the last e off “ampere,” a measure of electricity.

It wasn’t over for Jordan, however. Once the bee is down to a single speller, that student needs to spell one more word correctly, or else the speller who missed has a second life. As Judge Michael Ashmore said, “you’ve got to win by two.”

But Jordan spelled “salmonella” as she had all the others – clearly and calmly – to win the title.

Gallucci admitted after that he wasn’t entirely heartbroken with the loss, because the trip to D.C. would have caused him to miss a class trip to Boston in June.

But he still tried his best, he told his mother, Laura Gallucci.

“If I had wanted to throw it, I would have put another ‘a’ in ‘succotash’ (round 12),” he said.

As for Jordan, her proud father claimed that she was spell-checking his stories as an infant.

If it seemed as if there was a theme to Jordan’s words, which also included “spaghetti” and “carnivore,” Ashmore said that’s not the case. The words, he said, come from a master list and are given out in order, so there should be no ambiguity (round 10) about the words each speller is given.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:
[email protected]