Lucas Urbanski ended his four-year run at the Scripps National Spelling Bee with his highest ranking yet, but he failed to make the finals.
The four-time reigning McHenry County spelling champion correctly spelled “epixylous” and “cataphora” during two semifinal rounds on Thursday, but he didn’t score high enough on a computer-based test to advance to the finals.
“Epixylous” means growing on wood, while “cataphora” is the use of a grammatical substitute (such as a pronoun) that has the same reference as a following word or phrase.
In the end, Urbanski leaves this year’s competition ranked as the 13th best speller in the country, outdoing his previous best of 19th place set last year.
“I’m happy with my placement,” Urbanski said. “Thirteenth is better than last year, so I’m good with that.”
Urbanski entered this year’s national competition in his final year of eligibility. Hours after missing the finals, the Immanuel Lutheran eighth-grader said he hadn’t thought about this year’s competition being his last.
But the 14-year-old Crystal Lake resident said he leaves with a better vocabulary than when he first entered the national spelling bee four years ago.
Urbanski improved his ranking in each of his competitions, going from a narrow preliminary round exit in 2011 to a top 15 finish this year.
Heading into this year’s national spelling bee, Urbanski used a computer program, copied words into a notebook and reviewed words he previously missed to prepare for the event.
He clinched a spot in the semifinals Wednesday by properly spelling “gymkhana” and “Yinglish.”