Student spells his way to the top
Published: Thursday, June 13th, 2013
When asked to spell the words “balalaika” or “Pembina,” many would grab a dictionary. Not Max Oesterling, who correctly spelled those exact words at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Oesterling, a home-schooled eighth grader from Custer, started entering spelling contests when he was living in Kentucky.
“My mom thought it would be good to do,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. From then I started doing more.”
His passion for spelling contests led him to the South Dakota spelling bee, which he has competed in twice. While a number of kids dropped out early in the contest, Oesterling and another contestant battled it out for 38 rounds before he was named the winner of the state contest. One of his favorite words he spelled was “pronouncement.”
“We both were at the contest last year and had to go head-to-head this year,” Oesterling said. “She was really good, too.”
From there, Oesterling went on to National Harbor, Md., where the national spelling bee was held. Over 280 spellers from the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe; as well as the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea were represented. Oesterling was the only one from South Dakota.
“States send however many they can sponsor,” he said. “Virginia has 14 kids. South Dakota could only send me.”
Spellers range in age, with this year’s youngest being 8 years old, but are generally between 12-14. Spellers who have previously won the competition are allowed to compete again.
Before the contest began, Oesterling received a list of words to study before the spelling contest. Some of the words used during the spelling bee were “conquistador,” “flibbertigibbet,” “humuhumunukunukuapuaa,” “physiognomy” and “gobbledegook.”
“I did study them, but they weren’t really that hard,” he said.
In the preliminary round, he took a test where he had to spell 50 words. After that, in the semifinals, spellers had to correctly spell 12 words and answer 12 vocabulary questions. Oesterling didn’t make it past the semifinal round. However, he tied with other spellers for 43rd place.
“It was a great and new experience for me,” he said. “Really, God is the one who helped me. He helped me win at the state competition and He got me to the national spelling bee.”
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