Keenan ready to face the best in bee

TORONTO – Nathan Keenan, a seventh-grader at Toronto High School and son of Jeanine and Jim Keenan, said he’s as prepared as he could possibly be to face 280 students during the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Keenan won the right to advance to the finals and represent the area by correctly spelling the word “segue,” which is defined as moving smoothly and unhesitatingly from one state, condition, situation or element to another, to win the 29th-annual Herald-Star Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee March 2 at Buckeye North Elementary School.

In addition to a trophy, Keenan received a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, courtesy of Merriam-Webster; a $50 certificate and mint proof coin set in memory of Samuel Louis Sugarman, a supporter of the bee; a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica; a $20 gift certificate; a $250 gift certificate from Huntington Bank and transportation to the national bee courtesy on Amtrak through the participation of Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel of Wheeling.

Keenan, who will be making the trip today with his mother and father, said he worked hard to prepare for this year’s local bee after doing so well when he was in fifth grade.

“I made it to the regional bee in fifth grade,” he said. “I placed ninth, which was pretty good for my first year.”

Keenan said he didn’t do so well as a sixth-grader, not making the final cut, but he said that only motivated him to try harder this year.

“I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to make it to Washington, D.C., but that as my goal,” he said, adding his study habits for the bee became routine. “We went through all the words and (reviewed) the ones I missed. It helped me a lot to break down the words I missed.”

Jeanine Keenan said she and her son studied nightly with a list of words likely to be used during the regional bee.

“There are (study) lists of words with 14 different words of origin,” said Jeanine. “There were the ‘regular’ words and then the ‘challenge words.'”

“A lot of people didn’t remember the challenge words during the local bee because they are hard,” said Nathan. “Using the lists of words on a computer was a big help.”

Nathan found the lists of words online and studied not only the spelling but the origin and definition of each word. After winning the local bee, he went one step further to prepare for the national bee.

“I found online a conglomerate list of words that have appeared before in the national bee,” he said. “I’ve also gone through thousands of words in the dictionary.”

There are no lists for the national bee, he added.

“There were a few tense minutes during the regional bee, as Nathan struggled with the first word.

“I almost went out on the first word – ‘dissect,'” he said, adding he finally spelled it correctly. “My photographic memory helped me with that one.”

Nathan said he anticipates some anxiety during the national bee.

“I think I will be nervous because I was quite nervous during the regional bee,” he said, adding he’s ready to visit the nation’s capital. “This is my first time in Washington. I think it’s going to be interesting.”

According to Scripps, Keenan will be one of 97 spellers who will be making their first trip to Washington.

The competition will be held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., and will be the highlight of Bee Week. Monday’s schedule. according to Scripps’ website, begins with a Memorial Day picnic, with semifinal rounds computer testing Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday the semifinalists compete live on stage from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the cable network ESPN2, with the on-stage championship finals broadcast from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on ESPN.

Friday is reserved for tours from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the awards banquet from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and a farewell party from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The grand champion will receive $30,000 in cash; a trophy; a $2,500 savings bond from Merriam-Webster and a complete reference library; and $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica. The champion’s school and sponsors also receive engraved plaques, while all championship finalists receive a Encyclopedia Britannica CD/DVD software gift pack. All spellers receive $100 VISA cards, while those in the semifinals will be awarded $500 VISA gift cards. Seventh-place winners receive a cash gift of $1,500; $2,000 for sixth place; $2,500 for fifth place; $3,000 for fourth place; $7,500 for third place; and $12,500 for second place. Merriam-Webster dictionaries on CD-ROM also will be given to spellers, along with the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award.

Helping the Herald-Star present the regional bee was the Jefferson County Educational Service Center. Sponsors included Eastern Gateway Community College, the Steubenville Rotary Club, Huntington Bank, the Ohio Lottery Commission, Amtrak and Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel of Wheeling.