AYER -- The Macdonald brothers are spelling out a whole new aspect of sibling rivalry -- literally.
William and Owen, fifth-graders at Page-Hilltop Elementary, won first and second place, respectively, in last week's school spelling bee. William, who won the school competition last year, is going to regionals in March for the second time.
The process is part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the final round of which is held in Washington, D.C. and features winners from across the nation.
"I better get studying," said Will, sitting beside his brother in the principal's office.
This isn't the first time the two have proven themselves in spelling. In second grade, Will also won first place in a spelling bee. Their friend Alex won second, with Owen coming in third. The two refer to the coincidence as the "Macdonald sandwich."
"Alex was the peanut butter and jelly and we were the bread," Owen explained.
There was no sandwich this year, when one brother followed directly behind the other. Another student, Lorelei Folger, finished third.
The deal-breaker for Owen was "morale," which he spelled as "moral."
"I was hoping to have an epic showdown with Will in spelling, but it didn't happen," he said.
Will won this year by spelling "dissemble" correctly. When he went to regionals last year, he misspelled "alderman," which he spelled with a "min" instead of "man."
"After that, I went across the hall, I had some cookies and a Sprite. I enjoyed myself," he said.
But things could work out differently this year.
"I feel a bit more confident in myself," Will said.
"I feel happy I get to be back-up," Owen added.
As school winners, the two receive a yearlong subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica. Although their favorite subjects are math and science, the two also enjoy reading. Will is nearly finished with all of the books in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," while Owen just finished "Over Sea, Under Stone."
"I don't really ever read nonfiction," Owen said. "Usually it's just tons and tons and tons of fiction."
Page Hilltop Principal Fred Deppe said both are very avid students who bounce off each other. This is the school's fifth year participating in the national spelling bee, which he said the students enjoy.
"The kids love it," he said. "The competition is there, but in the end it's wonderful."
He said Page Hilltop students have made it through six or seven rounds of regionals before. Will is going to be competing in the North Central Massachusetts Regional Spelling Bee on March 24 with his brother in the crowd.
"I'm going to spell the words in my head," Owen said.