“Franconian” sends SunRidge student to national bee

Middle School eighth-grader Nathan Crabbendam is one of three students who won the regional spelling bee and will compete in the national competition May 26 in Washington, D.C.

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Franconian [frang-koh-nee-uhn], noun: A group of West Germanic dialects or languages, consisting of Frankish and the dialects descended from Frankish.

For knowing how to correctly spell this word, Nathan Crabbendam is headed to Washington, D.C., later this month to participate in the 96th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

To get this far, Nathan was the top speller at SunRidge Middle School, which qualified him for the county competition at the district office of Orange County Public Schools. He made it through 23 intense rounds of spelling and advanced to the regionals, hosted by the Foundation for OCPS at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. There, 24 students vied for the chance to compete at the national level. In the audience were teachers and family members.

“It was pretty stressful, but I made it through,” Nathan said. “I’m just glad I made it through.”

Nathan excelled at this level — receiving a trophy, some Disney gifts and a $1,000 check — and was one of three young wordsmiths emerging as victors and qualifying for the national bee, to be held May 28 through 30. Walt Disney World is helping fund the expenses of the trip for the students.

This is Nathan’s second year winning the school bee at SunRidge. He said he didn’t really study for this level of competition. He is a voracious reader, so words come easily for him.

For the national competition, though, Nathan has decided to put his study skills to work. He has been using the Bee’s Word Club app available for contestants to download. Spelling and vocabulary quizzes for all 4,000 words in the Words of the Champions study booklet are available on the app.

“It’s really helpful,” Nathan said. “It just speaks the word for you, and you have to type in the word and spell it. Scripps created that. It has lists for each specific round of the spelling bee.”

He has been putting in more time as the contest date nears. He studies more than 100 words each day but said he will increase the time he is devoting to preparing for the bee.

Are there any words or languages that trip him up?

“There’s a specific language called Sanskrit, and those words are really hard, and I never really understand it,” he said.

Nathan was surprised to discover he knew multiple words, such as kairn, from playing video games. In his adventure games, he visits different countries, and he has learned foreign words that have appeared in the bee.

His favorite literary genre is fantasy adventures, and he’s currently reading the Eragon book series. He is a member of his school's acting club, enjoys choreographed dances and was the lead character in his school’s production of “Descendants” in seventh grade. He enjoys playing tennis and gaming with friends.

Nathan is eager to return to Washington, D.C. and see it as a teenager. He’s looking forward to seeing all the landmarks and visiting the Smithsonian museums. His dad will accompany him while his mother attends his brother's graduation. The four will meet up later in the week.

A total of 245 spellers will compete in four segments of competition to determine who will take home the Scripps Cup: the preliminaries, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

All regional winners receive a bee prize package and other goodies, including one-year online subscriptions to Merriam-Webster Unabridged and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Monetary prizes begin at $100 for semifinalists and increase to the grand prize of $50,000 for the top speller.

The contestants have earned their spots as national competitors by advancing through regional spelling bees, competing against students representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe. Spellers will also represent three countries outside the U.S.: the Bahamas, Canada and Ghana.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee began in 1925 when nine newspapers joined together to host a spelling competition. The event is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company from its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more than 50 years, Scripps and Merriam-Webster have worked together to bring interesting and meaningful words to the best spellers across the country.

“No matter whether I win or lose, it’s going to be (cool) to compete in,” Nathan said. “The winner gets a lot of money: $50,000.”



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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