Northwood Middle School student wins McHenry County Spelling Bee

13-year-old advances to national competition


After 13 rounds, “deprivation” was the word 13-year-old Bob Gerloff correctly spelled to clinch the McHenry County Spelling Bee on Wednesday night.

The event, held at McHenry County College, lasted about an hour and included 12 students from the area. Gerloff won a trip to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, along with subscriptions to an encyclopedia and dictionary.

“It feels pretty good,” Bob said after the event, adding that he studied “a pretty good amount” for Wednesday’s competition.

His mother, Carole Gerloff, said she is “very proud” of her son.

When asked how they would celebrate, she said he could get “whatever you want.”

“It’s very shocking,” she said, adding that the family will travel to Maryland for the high-profile national competition in late May. “We’re all going.”

Amelia Persons of Nippersink Middle School was the first runner-up, and Tara Helton of Heineman Middle School was second runner-up. Persons was eliminated after failing to spell “Maltese,” and Helton failed to spell “addlepated.”

Other students who participated were Nick Bom of Heineman Middle School, Brooke Danz of Parkland School, Olivia Donevski of Montini Catholic School, Madeline Gray of St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, Elijah Koehrer of Marengo Community Middle School, Brooke Plunkett of Richard Bernotas Middle School, Nathan Sarfo of St. Thomas Catholic School, Gwen Steeves of Fox River Grove Middle School and Jessica Webber of Alden-Hebron Middle School.

“It was fabulous,” McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools Leslie Schermerhorn said after the event. “They did great. The kids were well prepared. They studied first for their school bee, then for the regional bee and then for this bee. They were pros by the time they got here.”

Schermerhorn said Gerloff was “outstanding” and that some of the participants will come back to compete next year.

“That first round was killer,” she said.

The first round included the words “Cossack,” “cachet” and “opossum.”

Brent Maring, a marketer with the Northwest Herald, served as the event’s emcee.

“I can only imagine the amount, the countless hours studying that went into preparing for the [competition],” he said. “All the students should be very proud of what they achieved.”

Denise Stanfa, a literacy teacher at Heineman Middle School, served as the event’s pronouncer. Jill Lamb, a seventh-grade literacy teacher at Heineman; Joan Oliver, a Northwest Herald copy editor and columnist; and Cynthia Wolf, a writer and publicist with Wolf Wordsmithing, served as judges.

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