Avid Reader puts his Love for Words to Work, Wins Deer Path Middle School Spelling Bee
Seventh grader advances to Lake County Sectionals on Feb. 22.
Alex Banta likes to read.
The Deer Path Middle School student can also trace the exact timeframe when reading became a passion rather than a scholastic requirement.
“It was spring break and I didn’t bring any technology,” said Banta, who was on a family vacation in Mexico. “It started with a John Grisham novel that somebody left in the hotel room.”
By the end of his vacation Banta had read 10 books, which makes it all the sweeter that his prize for winning the school's Spelling Bee last Friday (Jan. 27) is a gift certificate for Lake Forest Book Store.
The seventh grader was one of 10 finalists that included two students from each grade. Seventh grader Carra Wu finished runner-up. Banta wasn’t surprised he and Wu were the last two standing.
“I thought Carra or I would win, but I wasn’t sure whom,” said the 13 year-old, who proved he’s a winner in more ways than one when he’s overheard expressing concern to his mother about how Wu might be taking the loss.
This is Banta’s second go-around at the Spelling Bee. “I entered two years ago but failed really quickly,” recalled Banta.
He decided to try again at the suggestion of a friend, who also entered this year but didn’t advance past the preliminaries. The friend, says Banta, is now “his biggest fan” in his quest for Spelling Bee greatness, which continues with the Lake County Sectionals on Feb. 22.
Banta believes his chances for winning sectionals are good.
“If I study, I can do it. This is the first time I’ve studied in like seven years,” said Banta referring to the finals.
He prepared for the Deer Path Middle School contest by studying words from “Merriam-Webster’s Spell-It!” website.
Studying aside, Banta also may have improved his chances by employing a word sequence game to steady his nerves during the contest while waiting for his turn at the microphone.
“I tried to piece every word I was asked to spell into a sentence, like ‘the municipal, yet gleeful and laborious toad, ascertained understanding of the fact that pugilistic thermoses were lacking in clemency,’” said Banta, rattling off the sentence from memory as easily as he would recite the alphabet.
Not so easy was spelling the word “convalesce” for the judges, which Banta said was the hardest word he was given.
“I was unfamiliar with it and doubted I’d get it right, but I did,” said Banta.
On the other hand, spelling “battalion”, the word that won the contest for him, was a piece of cake.
“My Dad watches too many war movies for me not to know that word,” said Banta.