When he was younger, Lucas Urbanski thought competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee wouldn’t be possible.
This, however, is his year. On June 1-2, Lucas, 11, will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Being able to compete in the big spelling bee means a lot, said Lucas, a fifth-grader at in Crystal Lake.
To get to the National Spelling Bee, Lucas competed and won in classroom, school, regional and county events. While he wasn’t nervous about the classroom and school competitions, the regional and county bees were a bit more nerve-wracking.
At the regional competition, Lucas faced off against nine students from other local schools. The county spelling bee, held March 9, saw Lucas competing against 11 other students in a large auditorium. His parents helped him prepare by quizzing him.
“It was tense,” said Michael Urbanski, Lucas’s dad, of the county bee.
“I’ve still got a hole in my stomach,” added Lucas’s mom, Maureen.
Now, Lucas has shifted his focus to the National Spelling Bee. He and his parents bought flashcards to study, rented a spelling-oriented computer game from the library and printed out a list of commonly misspelled words. He also has a Kindle to study on and carries around a dictionary that is one-sixth his body weight.
Lucas is also studying word origins.
“In certain languages, some sounds are usually spelled the same way,” said Lucas, who has also been watching the final rounds of previous spelling bees on the Internet.
“He’s very dedicated to this,” said Michael. “He’s truly a self-motivated child.”
Lucas has always loved words, his parents said. He read five of the “Harry Potter” novels when he was in kindergarten.
Michael said he and Maureen were convinced that Lucas was “just faking us out and flipping pages” until their niece quizzed Lucas on his “Harry Potter” knowledge. He was able to recite details from the novels, Michael said.
Lucas said he also enjoys the “Percy Jackson” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books. He’s reading “White Fang” right now and is working his way through the “Warriors” series.
“It’s really fun,” Lucas said of reading, adding that it transports the reader to a different place.
His love of words has resulted in Lucas pointing out misspellings in places like the school yearbook, Michael said. Lucas didn’t get upset, though, when his name was misspelled on his nametag at the regional spelling bee.
“We just laughed,” said Michael.
Lucas rarely spells words wrong. When he’s studying and misspells words, “I’m thinking about something else,” Lucas said.
Whether studying or competing, Lucas said he simply thinks about the spelling in his head, unlike some competitors who pretend to spell out the word on the placards they wear around their necks.
Lucas is looking forward to visiting Washington, D.C., where he’ll get to take tours, enjoy a barbeque at Gunston Hall and attend an awards banquet.
“It’s not a matter of nerves. It’s just making sure he enjoys the experience,” said Michael. “(We want him to) cherish it more than anything else.”