Top Saugerties spellers crowned in annual district bee

The top two: Donovan Barros and Austin Razek

Saugerties Central School District’s best spellers waltzed through a tornado of words at the annual district-wide spelling bee on January 4, with eighth grader Donovan Barros emerging as the winner for the second time in three years. Fifth grader Austin Razek from Cahill took second place.

Two students each from Cahill, Morse, Mt. Marion, Riccardi, and the Junior High took part, earning a spot by winning their school bees in December.

The spellers’ mettle was tested with words like muskrat, geothermal, Capricorn, and diorama.


“Ballerina” almost tripped up Donovan, who said he had trouble with vowels while practicing at home. He persevered, however, and even exuded confidence, a word he spelled correctly in the bee, but admitted he didn’t always feel.

An avid reader who enjoys science fiction and the novels of Rick Riordan, Donovan, who attends Saugerties Junior High School, also won the 2015 district spelling bee when he was in sixth grade.

Runner-up Austin Rezak said he signed up to participate in his classroom bee, but didn’t think he’d even get as far as Cahill’s school bee.

“I said I would do it but I seriously have no potential for this,” he recalled.

Austin proved that he did, in fact, have quite a bit of potential, giving the right spelling of words like loiter, Netherlander, and caboose. When he correctly spelled falsetto in the fourth round, his jaw dropped in surprise.

When he’s not practicing spelling words, Austin can often be found reading, particularly realistic fiction and the novels of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney. He also enjoys sports, especially football.

The classroom, building-level, and district-wide spelling bees provided a fun opportunity for students to practice their English Language Arts skills, build vocabulary, and develop poise and confidence while speaking in public.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Olanike Audu called the participants “real winners” for having advanced to the district-wide competition, and Superintendent Seth Turner also congratulated them for being the top one percent of spellers in their respective schools.

In addition to Donovan and Austin, this year’s participants were: Brendan Honzik from Cahill; Mason Hagen and Armani Castano from Mt. Marion; Samuel Cushman and Molly Boek from Riccardi; Nicholas Stinemire and Gracelynn VonAhnen from Morse; and Brian Argueta from Saugerties Junior High. Brendan Honzik, Mason Hagen, Samuel Cushman, and Gracelynn VonAhnen are all returning district spelling bee participants from previous years.

Donovan and Austin will go on to represent Saugerties in the Capital Region Spelling Bee at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady on February 7.