WESTFIELD, NJ — After being hit with words like “eyewitness,” “copyright” and “Connecticut,” Charlotte McLaughlin walked away from the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield’s Spelling Bee with a first-place win.

The fifth-grader spelled out “suffocate” to get the winning position on Thursday night.

Twenty Westfield elementary school students gathered for the final Spelling Bee held in the Westfield High School cafeteria Thursday night. The competitions took place over the course of three days, with over 50 fourth and fifth graders participating, an organizer said.

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Winning contestant Charlotte McLaughlin of Holy Trinity School practiced a well-thought-out strategy to achieve her win. 

“I just remembered chunks of the words and I breathed in between syllables,” McLaughlin said. “That helps me slow down and get the word correct.” 

Parents and siblings looked on as contestants recited the letters of their given words.

“I was very nervous, but I was glad that I didn’t get some really hard words,” McLaughlin said.

Placing just behind McLaughlin, Washington School fifth-grader Vignesh Anant came in second and Franklin School fourth-grader Arboria Abrams came in third.

All three finalists will continue to compete at the Regional Spelling Bee Competition in February.

The Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield hosted the Spelling Bee for the 34th year in a row. Beth Reilly, who is on the Executive Committee of the Woman’s Club, was a chief organizer of the event.

“We really focused on getting the membership out to participate in this event. Everybody in the club loves it,” Reilly said.

Shreya Jyotishi is a sophomore at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.

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