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Local sixth-graders Aidan Steineman, left, and Hayden VanScyoc received plaques for making it to the Macon-Piatt Regional Spelling Bee. Although neither was victorious, they both won previous qualifying matches before competing there.

In a youth culture full of OMGs, LOLs, and other acronyms that dismiss spelling, area grade school students Aidan Steineman and Hayden VanScyoc are proud of their abilities.

“Kids are more about sports at my school,” said St. Anthony sixth-grader Aidan Steineman.

Occasionally called a nerd by classmates, the aspiring MIT student and physicist put his spelling ability on display by making it five rounds into the Macon-Piatt Regional Spelling Bee in Decatur over the weekend.

Eventually missing the word graupel, a German word for snow pellets, Steineman’s mother was extremely proud of her son’s performance.

“I don’t know how he got some of the words right,” said Angie Steineman.

“German and French words are the worst,” Aidan said begrudgingly of his loss. He went on to bemoan the fact that if he would have asked the origin of graupel, he would have spelled the word with “au,” which he says is a more common vowel structure in the German language.

Local sixth-grader Hayden VanScyoc was eliminated in the first round of the regional competition after winning the qualifying Bond, Effingham and Fayette Spelling Bee, in which Aiden placed third.

“Spelling has always come easy to me,” said the Dieterich Grade School student.

VanScyoc said he felt disbelief in himself when at the regional competition he misspelled the word gradient, mistaking the vowel cluster “iant.”

Competing at the regional spelling bee with Yasir Hasnain, a Moroa-Forsyth eighth-grader who won this year and has every year since fifth grade, was an experience the boys will never forget. There were approximately 12 rounds of competition for 22 spellers.

“It was intimidating,” said VanScyoc of competing with Hasnain.

Both boys said Hasnain would make exaggerated facial expressions before spelling his words, along with asking for as much information on a word as possible.

“Asking all those questions, even on easy words like commando, was to give himself more time to think about the spelling of the word,” said Aiden. “It was to keep people in suspense.”

Hasnain again won an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C., where he will compete in the National Spelling Bee. As for Hayden and Aiden, Hasnain’s aging out of the fifth through eighth grade group gives them hope for competition next year. They both plan to win their school’s qualifying competitions and the Bond, Fayette, Effingham County Competition in the future.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, at or on Twitter @Ednthuffman.


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