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Sycamore teen competes in national spelling bee

Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Monica Maschak –
Thirteen-year-old Matthew Rogers of Sycamore studies with his dad, Paul Rogers, for the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins today in Washington, D.C. Rogers has been studying for an hour most every night since the beginning of the school year. Flashcards, word lists, word roots, language rules and the dictionary are among their study tools.

SYCAMORE – Competing in the nation’s largest spelling bee hasn’t proved daunting for 13-year-old Sycamore Middle School student Matthew Rogers.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” Rogers said. “I don’t think it will be nerve-wracking.” 

Rogers won the 2013 DeKalb County Spelling Bee on Feb. 23, and is now set to spell his way through the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which starts today. The contest brings 281 participants together at Washington, D.C. to fight for the championship. The winner collects thousands of dollars in cash prizes as well as a trophy.

In the past, Rogers said he hasn’t faced any words that were tough to spell. Each time he competed in a spelling bee, he studied the lists of words he was given.

But for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, he’ll have to know the definitions of words, too. 

“That’s something that is going to be completely new for us,” said his father, Paul Rogers. 

Matthew Rogers has been training with his father by studying flash cards.

They also train by going through the Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder, which has words broken down by roots. Matthew Rogers will take a word such as omnivorous and study how ‘omni’ means all and ‘vore’ means eat to know the meaning of the word.

However, the contest also has another challenge, spelling words in languages such as Latin and French. 

“A lot of them are going to be in different languages, so you don’t know how they are going to be spelled sometimes,” Matthew Rogers said. 

Up to a certain level, most spelling bees are based primarily on word lists. In the case where contestants know the words very well, an announcer will give out words from an unpublished list to make the contest more challenging.

“And that’s where you really have to have a good sense of roots of words,” Paul Rogers said.

Spelling is probably more of an intellectual sport than anything else, but it is competitive, Paul Rogers said. 

Matthew Rogers became interested in competing after his older brother Mark Rogers entered a few of them. Mark Rogers won the 2011 DeKalb County Spelling Bee and entered the Scripps National Spelling Bee the same year, but did not get to the semifinals.

“You can probably call us a spelling bee family,” Paul Rogers said.

Paul Rogers said going to the Scripps National Spelling Bee is a larger-than-life experience. It’s an experience that is great for contestants, as they meet others from across the nation and even other countries, he said. The spirit of the competition is exciting and intense.

“We’re just honored to even go ... and experience the incredible brilliance of the nation’s top spellers,” Paul Rogers said. 

The 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee can be watched live on ESPN3 online.

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