By Denise Dick
A Jackson-Milton Middle School eighth-grader hopes to sustain the sweet spell of success on a national level.
Ryan Staton, 14, his parents and siblings recently headed to the Washington, D.C., area where he’ll compete in this week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I’ve been using the [word] list on the Scripps website, but I’m also using a Kindle to use the dictionary to read words and their definitions,” Ryan said.
Ryan was crowned champion of The Vindicator 83rd Regional Spelling Bee in March, outspelling 49 competitors from public, private and home schools across the Mahoning Valley.
That achievement won him a trophy as well as a trip with a parent to the Scripps bee underwritten by The Vindicator.
Ryan’s spelling practice sessions are a family event with both of his parents, Kelly and Edward Staton of Lake Milton, and his older brother and sister taking turns quizzing him.
Each daily study session runs 30 to 45 minutes.
Ryan admits being nervous about the competition.
Bee rules allow contestants to request the definition, origin, alternate pronunciations and use in a sentence after the pronouncer gives them each word.
Ryan takes advantage of all of them if he’s unfamiliar with a word or unsure of its spelling.
“I like German words,” he said. “They’re different – they use K’s and Z’s, and there are a lot of sharp-sounding words.”
The bee contest, which includes participants from across the country and U.S. territories, begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday with preliminary rounds. The event will be streamed online on ESPN3.
Final rounds are Thursday, with the first, beginning at 10 a.m., broadcast on ESPN2 and the last at 8 p.m. The last round will be live on ESPN.
The rest of the time the family plans to sightsee, including trips to the National Zoo and some museums. Events for competitors also are planned to allow the students to get acquainted.
Ryan, who earned third place in the 2015 Vindicator Bee, has watched portions of the national bee in previous years and looks forward to experiencing it.
He’s always been a strong speller and believes the time he spends reading may contribute to his acumen. He likes science fiction and mysteries.
But math is his favorite subject, and he’s considering a career in sports medicine.
Some spellers pantomime writing the words on their arms or hands to try to help them.
Ryan tried it, but it didn’t work for him.
“It seemed to mess me up,” he said. “It’s easier to just picture it in my head.”