This spelling bee champion from Somers has a recipe for success. Practice!
Nathan Settevendemie from Somers will represent Connecticut in the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee, which begins May 30. The sixth grader from Avery Middle School won the state’s spelling bee on March 5.
He spoke with Morning Edition's Lori Mack about how he prepares for the competition.
Lori Mack: You were among about 40 finalists. What was it like to win?
Nathan Settevendemie: It was very overwhelming because last year, I placed fifth in a regional bee. I was really excited this year because I've been working two years for it.
Mack: What was the final word that you had to spell, and what were you thinking when you heard it?
Settevendemie: My winning word was "incisiform." After I heard the definition, I was thinking that I knew how to spell it because it's something with incisors — the tooth. And then form is like the form of something. So I just pieced them all together.
Mack: Did you have a list of words that you studied from? How did you prepare for this?
Settevendemie: There was a list of 4,000 words. We had five weeks, I think, to study it. Also farther into the spelling bee, if the judges got that you knew the words well enough, they'd go off-list, to words you haven't studied. That's where incisiform — it was from the dictionary.
Mack: So that was off the list?
Mack: Do you like competing?
Settevendemie: Yeah, I really like competing in sports and spelling bees because you're always trying to see how much you've improved. Especially the school bee — and regionals last year, I got fifth place. And then this year, I got more help this year, and I was studying hard. So I had a better chance.
Mack: What advice would you give to other students who may want to participate in a spelling bee, about how to prepare?
Settevendemie: Study hard and focus really well. But also, don't forget to take breaks because that's how you can focus more.
Mack: Did you ever get nervous during the competition?
Settevendemie: The first few rounds, I was really nervous, but I just started to ease into it.
Mack: How are you feeling about this next competition, the Scripps National Spelling Bee?
Settevendemie: A lot more words than 4,000. It's more than 100,000. It could be any word in the dictionary. So it depends on how well I study. If I can study well enough, then hopefully, I'll get to the semifinals. That's my goal for this year.
Mack: Do you practice a little every day?
Settevendemie: So I get home from school and sometimes I have extracurricular activities like baseball, and I also do Ski Club. Most of the time, though, I'm doing four hours per day.
Mack: Wow. You're quite an inspiration. Best of luck to you.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.