A bee to see: Speller from Roosevelt has the last word

7th-grader Bryan Keck comes out on top in an unusual contest that includes a 5-way tie for 3rd place.

th photo
Bryan Keck, a seventh-grader from Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School, hugs his mother,
Julie Keck, of Dubuque, after he won the TH Media Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday at Clarke University.
The winning word was "ambidextrous."
Photo: Mike Burley . TH Media

Never in the 28 years of the TH Media Spelling Bee has a competitor misspelled so often yet won so much.

Yet that is the story for Bryan Keck, a seventh-grader at Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School, who on Saturday rebounded from five misspellings to win the bee and an expense-paid trip to the national competition in May.

The event at Clarke University started Saturday morning with 28 elementary- and middle-school students from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. It was not until after noon that Keck got in the last word: "ambidextrous."

So ended the most unusual TH Media bee on record. Consider:

* Six of the final seven contestants faltered in Round 17, immediately after bee officials moved to a tougher set of words, creating a championship opportunity for Roosevelt sixth-grader Emma Bastian. But she slipped on "onychosis," permitting the other six to return to the stage.

* In the next round, though the judges thought they dialed back the difficulty of the words, five of the last seven misspelled, creating a five-way tie for third place. Among them were defending champion Sibani Ram, of Washington Middle School, and Jack Doyle, the 2011 winner, now attending Mazzuchelli Catholic Middle School. Also in third place were Sharik Khan, a Roosevelt seventh-grader; Bastian; and Soumya Ajjampudi, a Carver Elementary School fourth-grader.

The final rounds were essentially a survival contest between two Roosevelt students who have known each other since elementary school, Keck and sixth-grader Jackson Viertel, who finished second a year ago. They misspelled more than they spelled, and championship round slip-ups kept the bee going.

Viertel reached the championship round twice. In his mind, Keck said later, he figured that his long-held goal to make the national bee was lost. But Viertel stumbled on "nekton" -- "necton" also would have counted -- and then "claret." And Keck twice received new life.

"I was just praying to God that he would give me a second chance," Keck said afterward, "and he gave it to me." Actually, the speller got a third chance.

After Viertel missed "razee," Keck spelled "pongo" to conclude Round 26 and then calmly spelled the aforementioned "ambidextrous" to bring the bee to a close.

Keck, the son of Julie and Dave Keck, will represent this region at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. It will be his first trip to the nation's capital.

The regional bee was presented by TH Media and sponsored by Clarke University and Dubuque Bank & Trust..

TH Media
Source: Telegraph Herald - Dubuque, IA
Date: 03/08/2015     Page: 1A-2A     Section: FRONT

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