A Local Student’s Road To The National Spelling Bee

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(Photos courtesy of Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)

The Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. gives kids the biggest platform to show off their language skills to an audience from around the U.S. This year, a local student made the cut.

Cody Cheng, a sixth-grader at South Woods Middle School, certainly tasted the honey.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “I was really nervous going to the nationals. When I was on stage, I just focused on my words.”

Cheng traveled down south for a week in late May, showcasing his apt spelling ability throughout the contest. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut for the final 50 students, who would later go to the last round and appear on TV.

Nonetheless, it was an experience that his mother, Carol Cheng, will not forget.

“We can’t be more proud,” she said. “We didn’t expect it. It was amazing, but we were really nervous. I didn’t think it was something we would experience.”

The Syosset student had to spell two words on stage: Litigate and herpetiform. They were both correct. Then, he had to take a written spelling test. His score wasn’t in the top percentile, but it was enough to create the memories of a lifetime.

“My hopes weren’t that high, but I surprised myself by getting two words right at the end and earned a decent score on the test,” he said. “In Round 3, I didn’t know the word, so I had to use my knowledge of language patterns.”

Cheng’s journey to the Scripps National Spelling Bee started at South Woods, winning his class’ spelling bee. From there, he captured the sixth grade title and eventually, he won the school-wide contest.

He had to take a test, which he aced, further advancing to the Long Island regional contest, which was held at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. It lasted more than two hours with the event finishing in nine rounds.

He did so well there that he was invited to the national competition.

“He was able to meet people from all over the U.S. who share the same passion for spelling,” Carol said. “We didn’t realize this was something he enjoyed doing until he entered South Woods.”

Cody Cheng takes to the stage at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
(Photos courtesy of Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)

Cheng is already preparing for the SAT, even though it’s several years away. He feels his knowledge of spelling will help him on the test, and he’s ready for the academic challenges that will come his way.

“I have more confidence because I was on stage,” he said. “I get less nervous in front of crowds now.”

Scripps provided spellers a list of 600 words to learn and study, from how they are spelled to their origins and meanings.

Ultimately, more than 500 students participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, with only 50 students making it to the final round that would see, for the first time in the bee’s history, eight kids win the national title.

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