Megalopolis. M-e-g-a-l-o-p-o-l-i-s. Megalopolis. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a very large city.”
It also was the final word that won 12-year-old Matthew Rogers the 2013 annual Daily Chronicle/DeKalb County Regional Office of Education Regional Spelling Bee.
And, aptly, a very large city – Washington, D.C. – is where the Sycamore Middle School seventh-grader is headed to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Rogers said. “But I’m very excited.”
Twenty-one third- through eighth-grade students from surrounding DeKalb County schools gathered at a Kishwaukee College auditorium in Malta on Saturday to put their spelling prowess to the test.
“We were happy to see representation from all of our public schools and three private schools,” said Amanda Christensen, regional superintendent of DeKalb County schools.
The tension in the air was thick as the competition lasted 14 grueling rounds. As the pool of contestants continued to thin, the auditorium became increasingly still.
“My heart was beating so fast,” said Hayeon Rogers, the winner’s beaming mother. “It’s very suspenseful.”
Spectators spoke nary a word as the spellers took their turns at the microphone, except for the brief moments between rounds to share a commonly uttered, “I could never spell that” or “Even I didn’t know that one.”
However, Matthew remained cool and collected as he rattled off each of his assigned words flawlessly.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Matthew said. “But I settled quickly and had fun.”
“We’re extremely proud,” said his father, Paul Rogers. “He put in a lot of time and effort. We practice every night for one and a half to two hours and watch every televised national spelling bee.”
For the newly crowned champion, it is more than a showcase of an extensive vocabulary; it is a way of life. Matthew has been participating in spelling bees since he was in first grade, and his older brother, Mark, won the same event just two years ago.
Along with the trip to compete at the national championship in the nation’s capital, Matthew won a copy of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary courtesy of Merriam-Webster, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award Certificate, and a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium donated by Encyclopedia Britannica.
The runner-up was awarded with a certificate for Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, donated by Merriam-Webster.
Jeff Smith, assistant superintendent in the Regional Office of Education in DeKalb County and first-time pronouncer of the event, said he was very impressed with all the participants.
“All the spellers handled themselves nicely,” Smith said. “They should all be very proud of their performance.”