SAGINAW TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (05/22/19) - Last fall 11 million students across the United States started to work to earn their spot in the national spelling bee. Here we are months later, 565 students will be competing. One of them is from White Pine Middle School in Saginaw Township.
"I'm studying as much as I can because this is my only chance," said Luke Zacharek, an eighth grade student.
Eighth grade is the final year to qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.
Zacharek earned a spot after advancing from a school spelling bee, to the Saginaw County competition. "I spelled a really easy word. I spelled rampage. I know it was really easy. But a lot of words I had to spell to get there were harder," he said.
Zacharek shared two examples of those more difficult words. "One of the words I spelled was junta. Which is J-U-N-T-A. And another one was schnecke. Which was S-C-H-N-E-C-K-E."
Just like any other subject spelling requires studying. Zacharek said he focuses on learning root words and adding new words to his vocabulary.
"I've always really liked puzzles, and spelling is kind of like a puzzle," Zachareks said. "Because you take some root words, or some word parts, maybe just a definition, to spell a word. And it's all like a big puzzle."
The preliminary round begins Monday with the finals on Wednesday. Zacharek said he is not nervous to be on the big stage. "I don't mind spelling in front of a big crowd, I really don't mind speaking in front of crowd, but just getting a word wrong in the competition, I guess, that makes me nervous."
He said winning would be great because there's scholarship money, but Zacharek is also excited for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"What I like to think about is not the climb up the mountain, but the view once you're at the top. And I think, it's all worth it," Zacharek said.
Before Zacharek, his parents, and two younger sisters leave on Sunday, students and staff at his school plan to hold a send-off celebration for him on Friday.
Click on the 'Related Link' with this story to track Zacharek's progress, as well as Wyatt Opperman from Kingston.