BRADLEY — While 19 articulate elementary school students gathered to compete in the annual Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Spelling Bee Tuesday night, the outcome came down to a duel between two — Quinn Meadows, of Bradley Central School, and Bryan Aldridge, of Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center.
All other spellers were eliminated from the competition after 17 rounds except the pair. From there, the bee lasted another 16 rounds before Meadows emerged as the winner in Round No. 33.
As the winner, Meadows will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee set for May 27-30 in Washington, D.C. The boy and his mother, Angel Meadows, will make the all-expenses paid trip courtesy of the Daily Journal and Amita Health St. Mary’s Hospital.
The crowd that assembled in the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School Auditorium witnessed the longest regional bee in recent memory. By comparison, the 2018 bee lasted 13 rounds, the 2017 bee 21 rounds and the 2016 bee just eight rounds.
The prolonged event was made possible by the determination of Meadows and Aldridge, who consistently spelled difficult words to remain in contention.
Finally, in Round 32, Aldridge misspelled “mandir,” which is defined as a Hindu temple. Meadows, who spelled “garcon” correctly in Round 32, then spelled “ipecac’’ correctly in Round 33 to advance.
While their competition was spirited, Meadows and Aldridge demonstrated no animosity. They could be seen congratulating each other on their successes as the latter rounds of the bee unfolded, and Meadows said where they placed could have easily been reversed.
“He (Aldridge) was really awesome,’’ Meadows said. “The word he missed, I don’t think I could have spelled. He did spell some words I would have missed.’’
While Meadows expressed humility, the entourage of about 10 family members, friends and former and current teachers who gathered to support him were not surprised by his achievement.
Now just a sixth-grader, Meadows has showed intellectual aptitude from a young age.
His grandmother, Barbara Meadows, recalled how he began reading at age 3.
His second-grade teacher, Joanna Burton, said the boy “could have taught second grade’’ during the year he was in her classroom. “He was that advanced.’’
Meadows won school spelling bees in the third, fourth and fifth grades, but was not eligible to advance to the regional bee at those times. Once at Bradley Central, he qualified in his first year of eligibility, and will have chances to do it again throughout the next two years.
Meadows is the second straight Bradley Central student to win the regional bee. Laura Tejero, now a freshman at BBCHS, captured the title last year.
As the second-place winner, Aldridge, an eighth-grader, will receive a cash prize from the Daily Journal. So will third-place finisher Isabella Mattox, a seventh-grader from St. George Elementary School, and fourth-place finisher Jasmine Davis, an eighth-grader from Milford Grade School.