CLEVELAND — The Scripps National Spelling Bee is back this year.
The competition was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday, 209 spellers from all across the country will start competing virtually in hopes of becoming the next champion, including four from Northeast Ohio.
Andrew Yeager, of Doylestown, Kerem Duyar, of Avon, Nicholas Williams, of Bolivar, and Matthew Dufour, of Ashtabula have advanced to the national competition.
Williams, 14, has been working on his dream of making it to the nationals since 5th grade.
His dad, Greg Williams, said he’s always had a knack for spelling.
“He's just had an ability to look at a word and just remember how to spell it. It's kind of unique,” Greg said.
They’ve worked to fine tune that skill with lots of studying together.
“A little bit of time every night just looking over words, and after a while I just go back at it and my dad reads them to me and I remember them,” Nick said.
That kind of consistent studying helped Nick win the spelling bee at Tuscarawas Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School and get into the national competition last year, though it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, he’s getting another shot.
“I really want to challenge myself to try and win this,” Nick said.
Nick will be competing against 209 other great spellers, including Kerem Duyar, a 13-year-old from Avon who took out all of the competition at Avon Middle School’s spelling bee — something he’s pretty laid back about.
“I just knew how to spell. I had proficiency with reading, knew a lot of words. Mostly I just knew how to do it,” Kerem said.
His mom, Jasmine Duyar, said he’s been spelling since he was two years old and is an avid reader, but he’s not just relying on his natural talent during the big competition.
Kerem said he's “using the Word Club app for the actual list of words being used in there and sometimes flashcards with words that I think are more challenging than others."
He said he’s not nervous. He’s leaving that all up to his mom.
“I'm more nervous than he is. Every time he starts to spell a word. I'm trying not to tense up,” Duyar said.
Kerem and Nick will also be competing against 15-year-old Matthew Dufour of Ashtabula. He’s no stranger to the competition.
“The first time I got top 200, the second time I got top 50,” Matthew said.
Now for his third time at the national bee, Matthew is hoping to finish in first place.
The teen goes to Lakeside Junior High School in Ashtabula, and got into spelling when he saw another participant show off her trophy from the competition when he was in third grade. He's been competing ever since.
Matthew said he practices by going over the list of words and re-spelling until he gets it right, but it's a little trickier at the national level.
“At the national level, they can give you any word in the dictionary and you can't study a list for that. So at the national level, you're about stuff, learning your roots from your language of origin,” Matthew said.
His dad, Michael, helps him with his studying. It's brought them even closer over the years.
“That makes it worth it even more because we do spend a lot of time together studying words and learning words and roots and everything. So it's made me a better speller, for what it's worth,” Michael said.
After the preliminary, quarterfinal, and semifinal rounds, if Nick, Kerem, Matthew, and Andrew finish in the top 10 to 12 finalists, they’ll travel to Orlando in July to compete in the in-person finals.
News 5 Cleveland is owned by The E.W. Scripps Company, which hosts the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
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