SYCAMORE – Most middle school students probably would not find a reason to study any subject after the last day of school.
Magnus Keswani, a seventh-grader at St. Mary Catholic School in Sycamore, however, will study his vocabulary after the last day of school Wednesday, with the hopes of bringing home the title of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion.
“I never thought I could be on that level,” the 12-year-old said. “I’m trying to get ready and getting a little more intense studying.”
Magnus won the annual Daily Chronicle/DeKalb County Regional Office of Education Regional Spelling Bee in March, beating out 18 other qualifying students in eight rounds of competition.
He said that before the regional competition, he would study about two hours a week, usually before school. But now, he has been kicking it up to two hours a day heading into the national bee.
His mother, Photine Liakos, is Greek, so he admitted with some shame that words of Greek origin usually are the ones he misspells.
“So, if I get anything other than that, I do pretty well,” Magnus said.
Magnus said he almost had advanced to the regional competition when he was in fifth grade, but was knocked out by the word "alcazar," a Spanish castle or fortress, after spelling it with a “k.”
Among Magnus' rewards? The Daily Chronicle will sponsor his trip to National Harbor, Maryland, where he'll compete in the national bee.
Liakos said that even if the trip was not funded, she would have found a way to make sure her son competed.
“I hope he does well, but I'm sure he's going to give it his best effort,” Liakos said.
Aside from the spelling bee, Magnus also participates in volleyball, basketball, cross country and was in the cast of St. Mary’s school play, “The Comic Book Artist.” He also enjoys reading James Patterson books and other fiction.
Nearly 300 students from around the country will compete in the national bee. After a written test qualifying round, preliminaries will begin May 31 on ESPN3. Magnus is slated to be in the back half of spellers, which start at 9:15 a.m. Finals will begin at 9 a.m. June 1.
All spellers will receive a Kindle Paperwhite, a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online, a 2017 United States Mint Proof Set and a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium.
Cash prizes will be awarded to spellers making it to the seventh round, and the winner will receive $40,000, a Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a complete reference library, $400 of reference works and a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium.