MALTA – “Contiguous” was the word that earned Magnus Keswani, 12, of Sycamore an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.
Keswani, a student at St. Mary’s School in Sycamore, won the annual Daily Chronicle/DeKalb County Regional Office of Education Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday morning at the Kishwaukee College Theatre in Malta. After getting off to an inauspicious start, Keswani said he was very surprised to make it to the final round and ultimately win the competition.
“I was shocked,” Keswani said. “I got the practice round wrong, so I just kept trying to do my best.”
Keswani emerged from a field of 19 competitors from 10 local schools. The event included eight rounds of spelling and vocabulary questions that the students were asked to spell and answer correctly to continue in the competition.
The Daily Chronicle will sponsor Keswani's trip to compete in the national spelling bee from May 28 to June 3 in National Harbor, Maryland.
The runner-up spot in the competition went to Daniel Martin, 11, of Sycamore. Martin said that although he did not win, he still enjoyed participating in the event.
“The best part was being able to qualify for this,” Martin said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to win, so I just tried to have fun up there.”
Martin, who attends Sycamore Middle School, said that he will continue to work hard, and he looks forward to next year’s event.
“I did really good this year,” Martin said. “Next year, I’ll train harder and hopefully win.”
While some contestants studied at home on their own, others, such as Josephine Wilson, 12, of Waterman, prepared for the competition in after-school clubs.
“We had spelling club after school,” Wilson said. “We did spelling quizzes and a lot of other stuff.”
Keswani said that he was able to do most of his preparation at home with the help of his family.
“We each got a list [of spelling words],” Keswani said, “and we were just told to study at home.”
Keswani said that the most interesting part of the event for him was meeting new people and competing in a friendly competition.
“Just seeing all the contestants, and seeing that everyone had different skills – that was cool,” Keswani said.
Keswani said he is very excited about continuing to the next level of competition in Washington, D.C.
“It’s kind of awesome because you get to spell more words and go to a really cool place," he said.
Keswani’s mother, Photine Liakos, 50, of Sycamore, said it has been a wonderful experience for her to watch her son compete.
“It’s been amazing,” Liakos said. “He puts in effort, and he succeeds. We’re incredibly proud.”
Amanda Christensen, the regional superintendent of schools for the DeKalb County Regional Office of Education, said that this annual event gives the office an opportunity to support the talent of local students.
“I think it’s a chance to showcase an academic talent in the same glory as an athletic arena,” Christensen said. “I hope [the contestants] get an appreciation for language, and I want them to get out of it that they can support each other in a place like this.”