By Mike Frey | email@example.com | 815-937-3343
BRADLEY — Aidan Stueck, of Manteno Middle School, had a simple goal as he competed in the 2020 Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Spelling Bee Tuesday night.
“I was hoping to make it as far as I possibly could,’’ the eighth-grade student said.
As it turns out, Aidan made it further than any of the 18 contestants representing area grade schools as he emerged as the champion of the bee, an always popular event once again held at the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School auditorium.
Aidan was the only contestant to reach the 10th round, and he spelled “impediment’’ to seal the victory. The win allows him to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee set for May 26-28 in Washington, D.C. Aidan will venture to Washington courtesy of the Daily Journal and Amita St. Mary’s Hospital, which will cover the costs of the all-expenses-paid trip.
While Aidan claimed the top prize, each competitor also was rewarded.
The top four finishers will receive plaques and cash prizes from the Daily Journal, and all contestants received trophies from the Daily Journal and other assorted prizes from the newspaper and the Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Office of Education.
This year’s bee seemed to be settled in an instant, following a dramatic ninth round. Fourth-place finisher Kaitlin Brown, of St. Anne Elementary School, bowed out in the eighth round, leaving the trio of Aidan, Zion Lee, of Kankakee Junior High School, and 2019 I-Kan Regional Bee champion Quinn Meadows, of Bradley Central School, to vie for the top prize.
Both Quinn and Zion faltered in the next round, leaving Aidan standing all alone. When he spelled the next word correctly, he ended a speedy bee which lasted barely an hour and drew a large round of applause from the crowd.
While the win came rather quickly, the preparation leading up to it was an arduous process. Ashley Nogoda, a Manteno teacher and Aidan’s spelling bee coach, can attest to it.
“Our team met all winter at school at 7 a.m. to practice written and verbal words,’’ Nogoda said. “Aidan was there every time. Even when it was still dark outside, he was there.’’
Aidan’s mother, Melanie Senerchia, said the roots toward spelling success were planted even earlier as he showed an aptitude for the language arts a few years before.
“His fifth grade teacher noticed and encouraged him to try out for the spelling team,’’ she said.
After all the hard work, Aidan had thoughts of joining his family for a steak dinner to celebrate the victory the same night. But his parents, including stepfather John Senerchia, reminded him he had school the next day and would have to delay his celebratory supper to perhaps this weekend. The delay didn’t diminish the smile on his face.