SOMONAUK – It will be a week of firsts for Ben Rydecki: his first plane ride, his first trip to Washington, D.C., and – the reason for the trip – his first time on the national spelling bee stage.
After winning the DeKalb County Spelling Bee in February by correctly spelling “oratorio” in the 14th round, Rydecki now heads to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., as the county’s representative. The trip is sponsored by the Daily Chronicle.
Ben, 14, of Somonauk, won spelling bees in second, fourth, sixth and eighth grades. As a sixth-grader, he took second at the county bee.
More than 270 spellers from across the country will take part in the spelling bee that begins next week.
According to the national spelling bee website, spellers range in age from 6 to 15 years old, but more than 80 percent are between 12 and 14 years old.
Ben and his family will spend one week in Washington, D.C., sightseeing and taking part in events scheduled for spelling bee participants.
A barbecue is planned for Memorial Day, and spellers will take a bus tour of Washington on June 1. As for the bee, Ben will take a first-round test and spell onstage during preliminaries Wednesday; the semifinals and finals follow Thursday.
“I’m really nervous, but I’m mostly looking forward to it,” he said.
Ben estimated he practices spelling seven to 10 hours per week. Some of the practice words have been tough.
“I think the best way [to practice] is when my mom tests me on words,” he said.
“Yeah, when I can pronounce them correctly,” joked his mom, Carole Rydecki. She keeps a running list of unusual words to quiz him.
Ben has never been to Washington and looks forward to exploring the nation’s capital. History is his favorite subject, and both of his grandfathers fought in the Korean War, so he plans to check out the war memorials.
It’s also the first plane ride for Ben and his brother, Tim. Ben said he’s probably more nervous about the competition than the flight.
Wayne Rydecki, Ben’s father, is proud of and excited for his son.
“It’s the chance of a lifetime,” Wayne Rydecki said.
Ben’s parents say it’s wonderful to see his dream come true because he has worked throughout school.
“I think it was extra important, too, because it was the last opportunity” before Ben went to high school, Carole Rydecki said.
“He was bound and determined,” Wayne Rydecki added.
The Rydeckis said their son is a hardworking student who also plays baseball, soccer, basketball and the trumpet.
Ben always has been interested in spelling. In first grade, he received perfect scores on every spelling test. He correctly spelled “antidisestablishmentarianism” in nine seconds in second grade.
“I guess it was just something I was just really good at from the beginning,” he said.
Wayne Rydecki called his son “no-nonsense.”
“He knows what he wants, and he goes out there and accomplishes it,” he said.
He said Ben has the support of family, friends and the community.
“You’re from a little town and you make it to D.C. – that’s a big deal,” he said.
Jay Streicher, principal of Somonauk Middle School, has known Ben since he was in kindergarten and called him an intellectually mature student. He said he was thrilled to hear Ben had won the county bee.
“This has been a goal of Ben’s since he was a little kid,” Streicher said.
Streicher told Ben to enjoy the trip and know the community will root for him. Ben’s drive and the support he receives from his parents make him special, Streicher said.
“He deserves everything that’s coming his way,” Streicher said.
Tune in to the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee
• Preliminaries will begin at 7 a.m. on ESPN3.com
• Semifinals will air live from 9 a.m. to noon on ESPN2
• Finals will air live from 7 to 9 p.m. on ESPN