Tllton School student Wyatt Worthington admits he wasn’t nervous standing on stage in a crowded auditorium; he just wanted to spell the words right. The fifth grader joined other spellers from Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for the region’s spelling bee in Dixon recently, winning third place amongst students in grades 5-8.
“I was very surprised,” Worthington said, reflecting on his finish. “I’m in fifth grade and I was up against others in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.”
Worthington was one of 39 students competing in the Regional Office of Education No. 47 Spelling Bee last month. Along with the coveted third place victory, Worthington received a medal and a $25 Amazon gift card.
His parents, Vic and Melody, were in the audience.
“It’s funny being in a spelling bee crowd,” Vic said. “Mel and I were both there. As we spelled his words in our heads, I think there was a time or two where one or both of us thought he’d gotten a word wrong, only to discover we were the ones misspelling it. I don’t think it really set in how well he was doing until after the seventh round when the final four contestants were pulled up to the front of the stage.”
Worthington had been battling the flu the weekend before, which put a dent into study time.
“I had a study guide of the words, but I was sick and didn’t get too long to study,” he said. “I would look through and read the words to my mom and dad and then they would read them back to me and I would spell them.”
He said only one word had been unfamiliar, “Cossack,” which by definition is a member of a people of southern Russia and Ukraine noted for their horsemanship and military skill. His other words were: Cosmetic, olympian, sequin, megalopolis, wanton, indigenous and egregious.
“He had talked through strategies for working through those harder words with his teacher, Mrs. Brown, and he really nailed the execution of it,” Vic said. “He repeated the word a few times, asked for a language or origin for clues on the suffix, and then wrote it out on his hand to visualize the spelling. Honestly, I was a little choked up watching him think on his feet so well in the moment.”
Worthington is looking forward to next year’s spelling bee and the studying that comes with it.
Pictured below, Wyatt Worthington stands with his fifth grade teacher, Noelle Brown, and Tilton School principal Jennifer Derricks.