How do you win a spelling bee these days? If you’re taking a leaf from eighth-grader Veto Lopez’s spell-book, the answer is: don’t study!
Upon correctly spelling the word “teriyaki,” Veto, 13, from St. Jude School in Elyria, was declared the winner of the 29th annual Chronicle-Telegram Regional Finals Bee on Friday night, scoring him a championship trophy and a guaranteed spot in the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee Competition in Washington, D.C., later this year.
A top-16 contender from the East District Spelling Bee on March 9, Veto got out in the fifth round with the word “cachet.”
But this time, Veto, who knew he’d get far in the bee, but not “far, far,” revealed his secret — he refused to study the night before.
“I didn’t really want to,” he said Friday.
And that was that.
So how, exactly, did he win? In a combination of pure skill, some luck and coolheadedness under pressure, Veto made it through eight rounds of the most competitive spelling of the season. Dodging words received by his competitors like “kerplunk” and “malihini,” Veto held his own through “janitor,” “oxford,” “mulligan” and others.
He reasoned them out, calmly and slowly.
“I just think about each word, and I try spelling it out my head before I say it,” he said.
His designated spelling adviser, Kasey Puskas, a middle school social studies teacher at St. Jude, praised Veto for being both “a really good student” and having “a laid-back personality.” She’ll continue advising him until he leaves for D.C. — and hopefully, if her schedule permits, she’ll go along.
Runner-up Michael Boehm, 13, from Holy Trinity School in Avon, was a “little disappointed,” but overall “really, really happy.”
“It’s just a lot of fun,” he said with a smile.
Michael made it through “etymology,” “keno” and “noggin,” but stumbled on his final word.
“The last word, ‘libretto,’ was definitely the hardest for me — I just couldn’t process it at the time,” Michael said.
Veto captured the title in the final round as he correctly fixed Michael’s error (an “e” instead of the first “i”), and secured his win with a little help from “teriyaki.”
While Michael will watch from home with a (relatively large) trophy and the bragging rights involved with being able to spell the word “ciliary” off-the-cuff, Veto moves on to compete with 277 of the nation’s best spellers in Washington, D.C.
The pre-teens will compete in the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee, the largest and most widely-televised spelling bee in the country. “Bee Week” kicks off on May 30, and the Championship Finals will air live at 8 p.m. on May 31 on ESPN.
Veto’s a little nervous at the prospect, he admits. “These’ll be the best spellers in the whole country!” he said.
So what does he solemnly swear to his loyal fans that he’ll do before the national competition in May?
He paused. “This time I’ll study,” he said. “I promise.”
Contact Emily Kennedy at 329-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.