Olentangy Valley News

Love of reading paves way to national bee

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
Max Danner, 14, poses for a portrait with his regional trophy at his home in Lewis Center. Max, a student at Oakstone Academy in Westerville, will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee next month.

Enamor.

Definition: to inflame with love.

Part of speech: verb.

Used in a sentence: Max Danner spelled enamor correctly, and now he's going to Washington, D.C., for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The 14-year-old Lewis Center resident said the winning word in the Regional Spelling Bee wasn't too tough -- especially compared to gadfly and archipelago, which he spelled earlier in the contest.

"I had to think about it some," he said. "I asked for the definition and it was like: 'to enthrall, to cause to fall in love with.' And I just thought of the Spanish word amor, for love."

By spelling enamor correctly, Max beat out 45 contestants from Delaware, Franklin, Licking, Madison and Pickaway counties. The win qualified him for the national bee, which will be conducted May 27-29 in the Maryland Ballroom of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md.

Max, a student at Oakstone Academy in Westerville, will be speller No. 184 out of 280 contestants at the national bee.

The preliminary rounds begin with a written test on the morning of May 27.

That will be followed by two rounds of spelling on stage from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 28, which can be viewed online at ESPN3.com.

If Max performs well in the preliminary rounds, he has a chance to move on to the semifinals. That round will be shown live on ESPN2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 29, while the finals will be shown on ESPN from 8 to 10 p.m. that day.

Max said his original goal was to qualify for the national bee, but it shifted after his regional win.

"I definitely want to win the nationals, but I'd be OK if I got to the semifinals," he said.

Max said he's always reading books -- his favorites are young-adult horror novels such as the Goosebumps series -- and his favorite subject in school is language arts.

"I always loved to read, and I'm guessing my love for spelling came from reading," he said.

"I went to my first regional bee in third grade and I enjoyed the experience, so I thought I would try to do better next year."

Max's father, Jay Danner, said it was obvious from early on that his son had a love of reading and language.

"He really reads more than any kid I know his age," Danner said.

"He was a legitimate -- not kidding and not just being his dad -- he was a legitimate reader at 4 years old, easily. He could read stuff way beyond your average 4-year-old."

Max said he studies spelling for at least a half-hour every day after he gets home from school.

His dad said Max often spends much longer practicing for the competitions.

"Particularly the last two years, he's put a lot more effort into it," Danner said, noting that this year was Max's last chance to make the national bee.

Danner said the national bee starts with words spellers had a chance to study. After that, they're on their own.

"The spelling bee gives you lists of words ... you can expect to see, and that's like the first few rounds," he said.

"Then they go to off-list words (that) you just better have read or studied other resources, or you're not going to know them."

Danner said he and his wife, Julie Danner, have been working with Max to identify clues in words that might reveal how some of the tougher ones are spelled.

Most of Max's work, however, is self-guided.

Max said the actual bees are a mix of stress and fun.

"It feels really exciting to have that opportunity, but at the same time, it's very, very nerve-racking," he said.

Mr. Danner said the bees might be more nerve-racking for parents than the competitors.

He said it can be hard to hold his emotions in check when he watches his son spelling a difficult word.

"It's almost like a sporting event," he said.

The national bee has received increased attention in recent years thanks to television coverage and movies and plays that focus on spelling bees.

Max said he's excited about the possibility of appearing on national television, even though he doesn't consider the yearly bee appointment TV.

"I've only seen snippets of one bee," he said. "I've never actually seen it (on TV)."

After the bee ends, Max said he plans to go on a tour of Washington with his family.

He said he's most excited to visit the Smithsonian Institution.

Max said next year he's interested in participating in spelling competitions for older students or science fairs.

He said he might pursue a career as a writer or editor after he's done with school.

Mr. Danner said he thinks his son's spelling bee accomplishments will benefit him as he continues through school and seeks a career.

"I do think what he's experiencing now is going to put other stressful situations in perspective," he said.

"(He's) going to have to get up and give a presentation at school, and that's not going to be near as stressful as being up in front of 1,500 people at the national bee."

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