Kearns is king of regional Spelling Bee final

Dozens of the area’s best school-age spellers gathered at Oswego High School Saturday for the 30th annual Oswego Regional Spelling Bee presented by The Palladium-Times. Pictured above receiving the champion’s trophy from Pall-Times Publisher Jon Spaulding is Trinity Catholic School’s Preston Kearns.

Trinity 6th grader punches ticket to Washington for Scripps national final

OSWEGO — Although “superficiality” was one of the longest spelling words at Saturday’s regional Spelling Bee final, champion Preston Kearns said it wasn’t even the hardest word he’d spelled that day.

“Tempestuous,” meaning turbulent or stormy, was the Trinity Catholic School sixth-grader’s toughest challenge during the Bee. Kearns gave the correct spelling in round eight — shortly before the event turned tempestuous itself.

With three spellers remaining in the ninth round, Kearns had correctly spelled his word, and the other two spellers, Xavier Vasquez and Margaret Jerred, had misspelled theirs. Under the bee’s rules, Kearns should have won if he had spelled his next word correctly. He did, but the competition continued — with Kearns, undaunted, eventually victorious two rounds later.

“Regretfully, there was an error in round nine that we didn’t catch before the next round was completed”, said Palladium-Times Publisher Jon Spaulding.   “After our bee officials reviewed their notes and realized the error, we decided a resolution round bringing back the last three spellers was in order to remedy the situation, and fortunately in the end, the outcome was the same for our champ, Preston Kearns.”

He’s a great kid and a heck of a speller,” Spaulding said.

Preston has years of Spelling Bee experience under his belt — spelling excellence “probably predates memory for him” his mother said.

Before moving to Oswego, Preston’s Arkansas school made an exception for him to compete in the spelling bees when he was still in pre-Kindergarten. Normally, no one under the third grade is allowed. Preston has competed in a bee he’s been eligible for every year since then.

Preston said while his strongest subjects are spelling and English language arts, some of his favorites are math and science. Kassandra said she “couldn’t breathe” while watching her son compete.

“He does not get spelling from me,” she said. “There’s been many times where I’m sitting in the audience going ‘did he spell that right? I don’t know if he spelled that right.’”

In the week leading up to Saturday’s bee, Preston said he studied an hour and a half every day, a step up from his normal half hour. Now that he’s going to represent Oswego at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. this May, he said he’ll probably ramp that up to two hours a day when the time comes.

Margaret Jerred, a seventh grader for Oswego Middle School took home second place, getting tripped up on “osteopath” in the eleventh round. She will be a backup speller to represent Oswego in the nation’s capital if, by some extenuating circumstance, Kearns is unable to go.

In third place was Leighton Elementary sixth-grader Xavier Vasquez, who exited on the word “settee” in the 10th round.

Major sponsors of this year’s regional final of the Scripps National Spelling Bee included NBT Bank, Exelon, Oswego Rotary, and Oswego County Federal Credit Union.  OCFCU’s Danielle Hayden was a behind-the-scenes helper at the event tending to the contestants once they spelled out.  “There were some tears, there were some hugs,” Hayden said.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will commence on Sunday, May 24, 2020 and run through Friday, May 29. The Palladium-Times will be bringing our readers coverage of the Kearns family’s journey right up through the live spelling rounds, webcast on ESPN3, and then live on ESPN2.

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