Local champ from Dubuque heads to national spelling bee

Bryan Keck, an eighth-grader at Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School in Dubuque, will compete
in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md. Photo: Nicki Kohl

Ever since entering his first spelling bee in fourth grade, Bryan Keck has been hooked.

He enjoys the feeling of winning, and even if he doesn’t do well, it motivates him to do better next time, he said.

“There’s just something about them,” the Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School eighth-grader said last week. “They’re fun for me, and afterwards, I feel good.”

This week, that passion is taking the boy to the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

He and his family headed out Sunday for the contest in National Harbor, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C. The preliminaries start this morning with a multiple-choice test, followed by two rounds of onstage spelling Wednesday.

“My main goal is to do my best, and I’ll be happy with that,” he said.

He competed in the national bee last year, but he was eliminated before the semifinals.

This time around, he knows how to study better, he said. He focused on learning root words and spelling patterns, rather than just memorizing words. That will help him figure out the spelling of words even if he hasn’t learned them.

He figured he spends at least 20 hours per week poring over root words, spelling patterns and vocabulary, making use of flash cards and root word books to help him along the way. Twice per week, he has one-hour Skype sessions with a spelling coach. His parents also help him with his studies.

It’s a routine he has followed for months, ever since winning the TH Media Regional Spelling Bee in March. That includes studying each night and sometimes on weekends, said his mother, Julie Keck.

“He just has a really strong love of languages, and he’s still young enough that his brain is like a sponge,” she said. “He can see stuff a couple times and remember it.”

Last year’s bee was a great experience, she said. Within weeks after the contest, Bryan started studying even more advanced material, Julie said.

“He just got really motivated to want to go back,” she said

Bryan said his parents helped keep him motivated throughout the process and that he tries to keep himself focused on the end goal — doing well in the bee.

This will be his last year of eligibility to participate in the national spelling bee, and while he is nervous about the upcoming competition, he also is excited about the experience. After all, making it to the national bee was a lifelong goal of his.

“I don’t really have expectations for it, except that I’m going to do the best that I can, and that was my main hope,” he said.

TH Media
Source: Telegraph Herald
Dubuque, IA
Date: 05/24/2016

Watch the Bee

Preliminaries for the Scripps National Spelling Bee will stream live from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN3.

Finals will be broadcast starting at 9 a.m. Thursday on ESPN2. The finals will continue at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

This year's contest features 285 spellers, according to the spelling bee website. Two of them are from Iowa — Bryan Keck, sponsored by TH Media, and Zander Reed, sponsored by Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.

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