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Oliver: County spelling bee buzzes with excitement

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:16 p.m. CST

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Here’s to the word nerds.

Here’s to the people who love to break words down to their roots, who care whether a noun or a verb has its origin in a Romance or a Germanic or a Slavic language. Or that it originated in Arabic and went through French.

Here’s to those who know that prefixes and suffixes give clues to word meanings.

Here’s to those who prefer to hear words in a sentence. Or repeated so they can fix them in their minds.

In other words, here’s to spelling bee contestants.

Here’s to the 12 spellers who will be competing in the McHenry County Spelling Bee, which will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the auditorium at McHenry County College, 8900 Route 14 in Crystal Lake. The bee also will be streamed live at NWHerald.com.

Once again, I have the privilege of being one of the bee’s judges. It’s something I look forward to each year.

On the line for the spellers is a chance to go to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will take place from May 25-31.

So there’s some pressure for the contestants, far more than I could have handled at their age. Although I’m a good speller, I always did poorly at bees. I would crack under the pressure and never make it out of my school’s competition.

Someone who most definitely does not choke is reigning McHenry County spelling champ Lucas Urbanski, who represents Immanuel Lutheran School.

He’s won the McHenry County contest three times and has gone to Washington, D.C., after each win. Last year, he finished in a tie for 19th place out of 282 spellers and could be seen on ESPN2’s broadcast of the competition.

He will be trying to get back there for a fourth time in his final year of eligibility. He’s faced some stiff competition here at home, with runner-up Scarlett Costello giving him a pretty good run last year.

It can take a while until there’s a winner, but it probably won’t be like a spelling bee in Jackson County, Mo., which ran out of words after 60 rounds. That bee still doesn’t have a winner and is set to resume Saturday. 

It hasn’t happened here yet, but I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

In any event, here’s to this year’s contestants: David Amoo, Mary Endres Elementary School; Haley Bowen, Marengo Middle School; Chase Duncan, Nippersink Middle School; Hannah Johnson, Northwood Middle School; Alexander Joseph, Woodstock School District 200; Shannon Mastey, Harvard Junior High School; Derrick Nguyen, McHenry Middle School; Brooke Peterson, Prairie Grove Junior High School; Cameryn Piskule, Marlowe Middle School; Clare Urbanski, Richard Bernotas Middle School; Lucas Urbanski, Immanuel Lutheran School; and Kaili Wegener, Parkland School.

Congratulations to all of them for getting this far; it’s quite an accomplishment. It takes a lot of work to learn all those words. Oftentimes, a speller gets a lot of support.

So here’s also to the parents, friends and family members who helped get the spellers ready.

This year’s competition should be a good one.

I’m ready to be spellbound.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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