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Local speller just misses national semifinals

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:42 p.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra –
Somonauk Middle School eighth-grader Keith Mokry, 14, high-fives science teacher and spelling bee coach Lois Whalen upon beating her in a spelling bee during the class wide assembly May 23. Mokry learned Wednesday afternoon he missed the semifinal cutoff by two points.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Keith Mokry won’t head to the semifinals for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but he’s not letting that kill his buzz.

The 14-year-old Somonauk eighth-grader learned Wednesday afternoon he missed the semifinal cutoff by two points.

“I feel good,” Keith said. “I know I worked hard for this and it’s a cutthroat thing. They’re cutting 280 kids down to 40.”

Spellers needed to earn 36 points to move into the semifinals. According to the spelling bee rules, 30 come from a computer-based spelling and vocabulary test and six were awarded for spelling two words correctly during oral rounds.

Keith spelled both words – cacophony and polymythy – correctly during the oral rounds.

“It was the computer test that got me,” Keith said, adding that was the part he was most nervous about heading into the competition.

Keith earned a spot at the nation’s largest spelling bee after winning a marathon 74-round regional spell-off. Keith and Matthew Rogers, a Sycamore Middle School student who won the 2013 bee, went 66 rounds in February before the first match ended in a stalemate. Mokry won after six rounds in a rematch.

Keith was one of 281 spellers from across the country to travel to the Washington, D.C., area. He was sponsored by the Daily Chronicle.

Keith’s father, Bill Mokry, said although he would have liked to see his son go further, he’s proud of how far he came.

“He had a good run at it,” Bill Mokry said.

Keith said he plans to watch the finals and is excited about a tour of Washington, D.C., and the awards banquet.

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