School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser told the 18 finalists in the 30th annual city wide spelling bee at Milford City Hall Friday evening that they were already winners, even before spelling a word.

The fifth- and sixth-graders had won competitions at their schools to earn them a spot in the spelling contest, which is sponsored by the Junior Woman’s Club of Milford each year.

She likened the young spellers to athletes in the U.S. Olympics.

“You had the courage to compete and that’s what’s most important,” Feser said.

Then began the spelling rounds, with words like vowel, history, wreath, poison, lemon and surprise filling the first round.

After several rounds, the winners were Erin Albright of St. Mary’s in first place; Gabriel Quinn of St. Gabriels in second place and Zoe O’Neil of Harborside in third place.

In addition, the student spellers were:

Kayleigh Hackett from Calf Pen Meadow, Elizabeth Dong from Calf Pen Meadow, Amogh Krishna from East Shore, Vaishnavi Bulusu from East Shore, Shreya Simhadri from Harborside, Anish Sikhinam from Meadowside, Saagar Motupally from Meadowside, Skylar North from Orchard Hills, Paige Carlson from Orchard Hills, Catherine Rivera from Pumpkin Delight, Amir Elhelw from Pumpkin Delight, Riley Shea from St. Gabriel, Christian Koschwitz from St. Mary, Eman Ahmed from West Shore and Arunika Shee from West Shore.

Jill Lanese, speaking for the Junior Woman’s Club, said the club does a lot for education in Milford, and that’s why the members believe the annual spelling bee is important.