Spell of v-i-c-t-o-r-y

Champion spellers out to win county bee

Macy Winicki

It’s time for a certain segment of Warren County’s population to put on thinking caps.

The champions of school-level spelling bees across the county have been crowned. Now, they will gather to determine who among them is best.

The annual Times Observer Northwest Bank Warren County Spelling Bee will be held Thursday, Feb. 6, at Beaty-Warren Middle School.

A total of 17 spellers will compete and 15 alternates have been named.

The anticipated competitors are:

Bobby Johnson

¯ Beaty-Warren Middle School — Elias Eastman (8th), Bobby Johnson (7th), Braden Thomson (6th), Macy Winicki (8th), and Tage Wyman (6th). Alternates: Parker Anderson (8th), Finn Ordiway (7th), Anna McCord (7th), Aleksander Slattery (8th), and Lani Wenzil (5th).

¯ Eisenhower Middle School and Eisenhower Elementary School — Rhiannon Cook (7th), Rachel Culbertson (6th), and Austin Hanson (5th). Alternates: Kendra Danielson (6th), Hayden Hendricks (5th), and Jenna Punch (6th).

¯ St. Joseph Catholic School — Izzy McMonigal (6th). Alternate: Rocco Siliano (6th).

¯ Sheffield Middle School — Lily Benton (7th), and Isaac Hammerbeck (6th). Alternates Zeke Lindsey (5th), and Grayce Wilson (8th).

¯ Tidioute Community Charter School — Callan Peterson (8th). Alternate: Nathan Dietrich (7th).

Elias Eastman

¯ Warren County Christian School — Jolene Gouak (6th).

¯ Youngsville Elementary School and Youngsville Middle School — Desirae Merritt (5th), Michael Raffanello (7th), and Cooper Tobolski (7th). Alternates: Corinthia Edwards (8th), Nicholas Romanosky (5th), Chevelle Yeskey (8th).

The judges for the event are Chief Brandon Deppen of the City of Warren Police Department, Chief Todd Mineweaser of the Youngsville Borough Police Department, and Josh Cotton of the Times Observer. The moderator is Brian Ferry of the Times Observer.

In addition to competing for the right to represent Warren County at the Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee at Robert Morris University in March, the top three spellers will receive gift cards and plaques.

Here are the biographies of the competing spellers in Thursday’s bee:

Tage Wyman

Macy Winicki is the daughter of Chris and Beth Arford. She is an eighth-grade student at Beaty-Warren Middle School. Macy is a member of Warren Players and enjoys acting. She has been in local theatre plays and enjoys singing and dancing. This is Macy’s third time competing at the District Spelling Bee. She describes herself as passionate, sarcastic, a quick learner and a bit of a diva. Macy hopes someday to be acting professionally.


Bobby Johnson is the son of Kyle and Carmen Johnson. Bobby is a seventh-grader at Beaty-Warren Middle School. This quiet young man enjoys playing video games in his free time. Bobby is also a member of the Boy Scouts of America. His favorite subject is math and hopes to become a mathematician.


Elias Eastman is the son of Erin Eastman. Elias is an eighth grade student at Beaty-Warren Middle School. His hobbies include reading and playing video games. Elias would like to be an author or screen writer or teacher. He said he chose these because he would like to inspire others.

Braden Thomson


Tage Wyman is the son of Jeremy and Kerstin Wyman. He is a sixth grader at Beaty-Warren Middle School. Tage is a member of Beaty Student Council and First United Methodist Youth Group. He enjoys playing basketball and baseball and helps mow the Little League baseball field. Along with sports his hobbies include video games. Tage would like to be a professional basketball player.


Braden Thomson is the son of Whitney Check and Michael Thomson. He is a sixth grader at Beaty-Warren Middle School. His hobbies include reading, swimming, and baseball. He is a member of the Boy Scouts of America and the Grange. He has participated in a road clean- up for community service. He describes himself as funny, weird, and clumsy. Braden’s love of baseball makes him choose this as the profession he hopes to have later.


Izzy McMonigal

My name is Izzy McMonigal. I am the in 6th Grade at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and am this year’s spelling bee winner. My parents are Joy McMonigal and Keith Hedges. I live in Warren, Pennsylvania. My interests are dance, violin, and ukulele. My winning word was exploits.


My name is Rocco Siliano I am the runner-up and first alternate from St. Joseph’s Catholic School. I am in sixth grade.. My parents are Lisa Siliano and Tony Siliano. I live in Warren Pennsylvania. My interests are dancing, cooking, and socializing. My winning word was exploits.


The Spelling Bee winner for Warren County Christian School is sixth grader, Jolene Gouak. She is the daughter of Lon and Sandra Gouak of Youngsville, PA. Jolene’s favorite subject is math. Outside of school, Jolene enjoys reading and horseback riding. Her winning word was ‘smiled.’


Callan Patterson is an 8th grader at T.C.C.S. She is the daughter of Michael and Sara Patterson. Callan is an excellent writer, having already written and published a book. She excels in academics and participates in volleyball and softball. Her future plans are to become a teacher and author.


Michael Raffanello is a seventh grade student at Youngsville Middle High School and the son of Amber Haight and John Eck. He also lives with his siblings Mercedes, Marissa, and Memphis. When asked how he became such a great speller Michael responded, “Well, sometimes I read through or look through pages of the dictionary looking at different words.” Soon after winning the school spelling bee to qualify for the district spelling bee Michael stated, “I felt really jittery up there on stage. I kept wondering am I going to win. It felt awesome when it came down to the final two and he did a good job too. I was shaking so I just tried to find a coping mechanism. I put my hands in my pocket to keep my head in the game.” When he is not winning spelling bees in his spare time, Michael enjoys gaming and playing with his dog and cats. In the future Michael plans to be a geneticist, robotics engineer, or astronaut.


Cooper Tobolski is a seventh-grade student at Youngsville Middle High School. He is the son of Amy and Lenny Tobolski. While qualifying for the district spelling bee Cooper stated, “I felt nervous, but I pictured the word that I had to spell in my head and only focused on the word that I had to spell. Not the audience.” In addition to being a great speller, this talented seventh grader enjoys collecting items including rocks, shells, and marbles. He adds, “The largest marble being nearly four inches in diameter!” In his free time, Cooper enjoys spending time with his cat and dog and would someday like to work with animals. When asked if there was anything else he would like to share about himself, Cooper mentioned, “Well, my words to live by are what I call the brass rule because it is not exactly good enough to be the golden rule, but treat others how they treat you.”


Desirae Merritt, a 5th grader at YES, has a caring mom and dad, a little brother, and a cat named Olivia. She enjoys playing softball and making cookies. Someday, she’d love to travel to Africa and Hawaii, and go on a cruise with her family. She is a talented artist and writes beautiful stories! Someday, Desirae hopes to own an animal shelter and to become a veterinarian.


Rachel Culbertson — Grade 6; Winning Word — Apprehensive

Rachel is the daughter of Carolyn and Craig of Russell. She is an honor roll student at Eisenhower Middle School. She has also received Gymnast of the Month and was an AR award recipient. Rachel enjoys reading, baking, and drawing. Her favorite class is computer. This is her first time at the district spelling bell.


Rhiannon Cook — Grade 7: Winning Word — Proximo

Rhiannon is the daughter of Christopher and Valerie of russell. She is an honor roll student and has participated at district spelling bee previously. She has been an award recipient in soccer and Kinex. She enjoys volleyball, reading, writing and drawing. Her favorite class is English Language Arts.


Lily Benton is a 7th grader at SAMHS. She is 13 years old and the daughter of Albry and Josh Benton. Lily’s favorite subject is English and she also enjoys art class too! She likes to draw and write when she has free time.


Isaac Hammerbeck is a 6th grader at SAMHS. He is the son of Tom and Erin Hammerbeck and a big brother to Noah. He loves math, but his favorite part of being in middle school is being able to participate in Battle of the Books! Isaac enjoys playing video games and drawing in is free time. He is a member of the Sheffield biddy basketball team, plays soccer, and is active with the boy scouts.


Austin Hanson is a 5th grader at Eisenhower Elementary and is our 2020 Spelling Bee contestant! He is the son of Joshua and Lacey Hanson. In his spare time he enjoys playing basketball and baseball. Austin’s loves all of his school subjects. His favorite activity in school is gym. Austin enjoys reading as well, and his favorite series is “Harry Potter.”

Rocco Siliano

Jolene Gouak

Callan Patterson

Michael Raffanello

Desirae Merritt

Cooper Tobolski

Rachel Culbertson

Rhiannon Cook

Lily Benton

Isaac Hammerbeck

Austin Hanson


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