‘We’re going to D.C. this year’: Cary 7th grader wins McHenry County spelling bee

Seventh-grader Evan Cochrane was determined to head for the Scripps National Spelling Bee this year after placing sixth in the McHenry County regional contest last year.

“He said, ‘You got to be ready because we’re going to D.C. this year,’” mom Portia Cochrane said.

Evan, whose family lives in Cary, was proved right. He will compete for the national title May 26-31 in National Harbor, Maryland, after winning first place in the McHenry County Regional Spelling Bee Wednesday.

Evan, 12, a student at Immanuel Lutheran School in Crystal Lake, secured first place after correctly spelling “cornea” in the 21st round. David Koll of Crystal Lake’s Hannah Beardsley Middle School won second place, and Lucas Fiedorowicz of Crystal Lake’s Bernotas Middle School came in third.

Evan has participated in his school spelling bee since fourth grade and has won each year, according to his mother. He was able to correctly spell words he wasn’t familiar with by asking questions like language origin, definitions and other ways to pronounce the words, Mac Cochrane said of his son’s winning ways this year. “He was in the zone. He was able to figure out the spelling of a couple words I have never even heard of before. I was completely impressed.”

McHenry Community High School District 156 English teacher Heidie Dunn pronounced the words to the 24 contestants ranging from third to eighth grade at the competition held at McHenry County College. The sponsors of the spelling bee were the Northwest Herald, the Urbanski family and State Rep. Steve Reick.

Through the help of sponsors, the McHenry County Regional Office of Education is able to fund travel and lodging for the family to the national competition. Evan also won the Samuel Louis Sugarman award, a one-year subscription to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged online dictionary and a premium one-year subscription to Britannica online.

“Participating in the McHenry County Regional Spelling Bee helps young people develop public speaking skills, confidence, and other important attributes that will serve them well in adolescence and adulthood,” Regional Superintendent Diana Hartmann said in a news release.

Going to nationals also means having a week of fun, Hartmann said. Contestants go to museums and go on different outings with each other throughout Bee Week. “He’s going to have a really great week, and hopefully he’ll get to make connections with other students which I’m sure will be achieving wonderful things in life, too,” Hartmann said.

Any student from kindergarten through eighth grade who goes to a public, private or is home-schooled in McHenry County can participate in the regional spelling bee, Hartmann said. The maximum age a student can be is 15.

The final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be on May 30 and will be streamed online and on the Ion TV channel. The grand prize of the national contest is $50,000, according to the contest’s website. Those placing below first will also have a chance at a number of awards.

Last year, Vishrut Kinikar, a seventh-grader from Cary Junior High School, won the regional spelling bee.

Hartmann said the spelling bee is a great way to encourage “lifelong curiosity” while celebrating academic achievement and enriching the local community. “It helps them with public speaking and dealing with nervousness and being put on the spot,” Hartmann said. “It’s just good practice for them and it’s just really fun.”

Evan’s younger sister Maeva, 10, is also a spelling bee champion in her grade at Immanuel Lutheran School. She hopes to one day make it to the national stage, too.

“I’m very proud of my brother and I know that he will do great at nationals,” she said.

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