DIXON – The Sauk Valley soon might have its very own queen bee.
Powerhouse speller Kathleen Keesey, 13, who has twice taken top honors at the Lee-Ogle-Whiteside Regional Spelling Bee, Tuesday advanced to the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals.
Tom Wadsworth has been the regional bee’s pronouncer since 1983.
“As far as I can recall, our area has never had a champion who made it to the top 30 spellers in the nation,” Wadsworth said in a news release. “Kathleen is making us all very proud.”
Kathleen, a former Reagan Middle School seventh-grader, is the daughter of Jon and Tara Keesey. After she won the Lee-Ogle-Whiteside Regional Spelling Bee on Feb. 18, her family moved to Castle Pines, Colorado, but she still is competing as the champion from the Lee-Ogle-Whiteside Regional Office of Education, Wadsworth said.
Because of the pandemic, all national contestants have been competing by video from their homes, with a proctor present. The first six rounds of national competition began Saturday with 209 champion spellers. By the end of the day Tuesday, the six rounds eliminated 179 contestants, leaving only the 30 semifinalists.
The 2021 national bee includes spelling and vocabulary words. In the six rounds, Kathleen has correctly spelled kugel, ponzu, rotifer, and assessorial, and she has correctly defined topiary (a shrub cut into a decorative shape) and laparotomy (a surgical procedure that involves the cutting of the abdominal wall), Wadsworth said.
This year’s 209 spellers earned their spots as national competitors by advancing through local and regional bees, competing against contestants representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.
If Kathleen reaches the top 10 to 12 contestants on June 27, she will fly to Orlando, Florida for the national finals at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. The champion will receive a $50,000 cash prize.
The semifinals will be broadcast from 6 to 10 p.m. June 27 on ESPN2.
The final rounds will be broadcast live from 7 to 9 p.m. July 8, also on ESPN2.