Fifth-grader Brandon Arnold-Wallace had been training for this moment since Dec. 22, 2017, the first day of Forest Park District 91 schools’ winter break. Was he nervous? No.
Arnold-Wallace had been memorizing words an average of three hours a night, waiting to compete at D91’s annual Spelling Bee competition on Jan. 17.
“Chandeliers,” he spoke into the microphone at Forest Park Middle School, practically jumping from toe to toe in excitement. “C-H-A-N-D-E-L-I-E-R-S,” he spelled. “Chandeliers.”
A judge held up a green card, and the crowd cheered.
After seven intense rounds competing against a boy two years older than he, Arnold-Wallace had won the district’s spelling bee, skipping offstage to meet his proud mom, aunt and a raucous crowd of about 45.
Arnold-Wallace will now compete at McClure Junior High School in Western Springs on Feb. 8 for a chance to outspell the nation’s best at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, an event Arnold-Wallace said he’s dreamed of attending for two years.
Second-place finalist and seventh-grader Daniel Contreras will serve as Arnold-Wallace’s alternate at McClure. About 30 students competed in the D91 bee.
“I think it’s going to be a breeze, burnt toast with jelly on top, which is a saying for sweet taste of victory,” Arnold-Wallace said of the upcoming competition.
Arnold-Wallace said he wasn’t surprised by the win, because he’s already been successful in so many other endeavors. In third and fourth grade, he won spelling contests in his classroom. Arnold-Wallace also said he swims at the highest level at the Forest Park pool. A member of Forest Park Cub Scouts Pack 109, Arnold-Wallace said he also has won three Pinewood Derby championships.
“I feel very confident,” he said. “I mean, come on, I crushed the classroom. I crushed this.”
The fifth-grade Field-Stevenson Elementary School student credits his win to a love of books and good memory skills. He also wanted to thank his mom, Amy, for spelling with him all those late nights in the living room.
“I’m still shaking,” Amy Arnold said after her son won.
She said she was proud of Arnold-Wallace for controlling his nerves and, of course, for his win. As for his chances of bringing home the Stanley Cup-sized first place trophy from the Scripps National Spelling Bee?
“I think it’ll be a nice addition to the dining room table,” she said.