Westfield Students Sweep District Spelling Bee

Christine Jablonski, Liberty District Spelling Bee chair and president, Woman's Club of Arlington; Ryan Gasson, 3rd place; Vivian Jeckell, 1st place; Kayla O'Brien, 2nd place and Holly Capobianco, past president and federation secretary, Junior Woman's Club of Arlington. Credits: photo courtesy of Christine McGrath, President of Junior Woman's Club of Verona

KEARNY, NJ — Three students from Westfield took first, second and third place at the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs Liberty District Spelling Bee on Saturday. Fifth grader Vivian Jeckell came in first, fifth grader Kayla O’Brien came in second and fourth grader Ryan Gasson came in third. All three were sponsored by the Junior Women’s Club of Westfield.

Fifteen contestants competed at the Franklin School Auditorium in Kearny after placing in the top three in their own club-level spelling bees, hosted by one of five Junior Woman’s Clubs: Arlington (in Kearny), Cedar Grove, Summit, Verona and Westfield. After 10 rounds and six spell-offs, “hobble” was the winning word. 

"I was so proud to be competing against the best spellers in the district,” said Jeckell, who received a Spelling Champion bee trophy. “I was really nervous at the beginning. My favorite word that I got was probably ‘goulash.’ I wasn't sure if I'd get it. Everyone got some really hard words, but I'm so proud of Westfield for sweeping the bee. I can't wait to see how we do in the state competition. It's really so much fun, and meant more to have my friend Kayla with me and Ryan from Westfield, too.” 

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Prizes for the three finalists were gift cards from TD Bank funded by a grant from ExxonMobil. All 15 contestants in the Liberty District Spelling Bee received a certificate of participation. 

Jeckell, O’Brien and Gasson will move on to compete against other fourth and fifth graders from towns throughout New Jersey in the State Spelling Bee sponsored by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs on March 7 at the NJSFWC Headquarters on the campus of Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. (Snow date March 14.)

The Liberty District Spelling Bee was hosted by the Junior Woman’s Club of Arlington in Kearny. Volunteers from the Arlington and Verona clubs provided assistance for the Bee. Refreshments provided by the Arlington Juniors raised money for the NJSFWC Special State Project – NAMI New Jersey (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Patricia Sherwen served as the official pronouncer. She has pronounced for several club and district spelling bees as an active volunteer for the Arlington Woman’s Club and Friends of the Kearny Library and is a Past President of the Junior Woman's Club of Arlington and a former reading specialist. The judges are former educators and currently represent the Arlington Woman's Club: Christine Jablonski, President and Chairman of the Liberty District Spelling Bee; and Una Phelan, a member of the Education Committee.

The event was moderated by Holly Capobianco (Past President and Federation Secretary – Junior Woman's Club of Arlington) and Christine McGrath (President, Junior Woman's Club of Verona) Sandra Uhler (Member – Junior Woman's Club of Arlington) videotaped and photographed the bee.

The Junior Women's Clubs that hold annual spelling bees are volunteer members of a statewide association of Women’s Clubs within the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. They provide opportunities for education, leadership training, and community service. For more information, visit and

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