By Denise Dick
Max Lee returns for his third appearance at the Vindicator Regional Spelling Bee, but this time, he comes to defend his title.
Max, 13, an eighth-grader at Canfield Village Middle School and the son of Tac and Linglan Liu Lee, won the 2012 event after coming in second the previous year.
He’s been studying a couple of hours each night during the week.
“I have my parents help me study,” Max said. “They print out the list and ask me some words from the dictionary.”
His mom says he’s doing well in the study sessions and doesn’t seem nervous gearing up for the bee.
At the Vindicator 80th Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, Max faces 59 other students from middle and elementary schools from Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio and Mercer County in Pennsylvania. Among them is Tamsin Day of Boardman, a student at Willow Creek Learning Center who finished second last year.
The event will be in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University, and spellers — 29 boys and 31 girls — hail from public, private, parochial, charter and home schools. Each is the champion of a school competition and received a Merriam-Webster 11th Edition Collegiate Dictionary, courtesy of The Vindicator as well as a Vindicator Spelling Bee T-shirt, school champion certificate and other mementos.
The grand champion will receive many prizes including a first place trophy and certificate from The Vindicator as well as an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the winner and a parent during the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee Week May 26 through June 1. The newspaper also underwrites the trip.
The winner also receives gift cards from both the Rotary Club of Youngstown and the Downtown Kiwanis Club, “These Hundred Years — A Chronicle of the 20th Century,” compliments of The Vindicator; the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a U.S. Savings Bond from Jay Sugarman in honor of his father; a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary from Merriam-Webster and a floral arrangement provided by Burkland Flowers of Youngstown.
When Max gets a word to spell, he tries to visualize it. If he doesn’t know it right away, he’ll use his finger to write out the letters on his hand.
It’s a strategy employed by a lot of bee participants.
“I saw it on TV,” he said.
He was watching the national bee on television when he was in fourth or fifth grade, saw those spellers do it and decided to try it for himself.
Max likes words of French or German origin because they follow prescribed rules that make them easier to spell. A “v” sound in German, for example, indicates a “w,” he explains.
Max usually asks for a word’s origin when the pronouncer gives him a word. He also asks for the part of speech and sometimes for its definition and for a sentence using the word.
Regardless of how Max performs Saturday, it will be his last bee. As an eighth-grader, it’s the last year he may compete.
Though he’s a young man of few words when it comes to conversation, he can spell a boatload of them without a hitch.
Take “o-m-p-h-a-l-o-s-k-e-p-s-i-s,” meditation while staring at one’s navel, a s an example. He happened upon it while reading the dictionary one day — something he does every two or three days.