ONTARIO — Anyone who saw Charley Wiggins win the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in March at Hobart and William Smith Colleges witnessed a confident young man who revels in the competition.
While Wiggins remains confident heading into the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., he also realizes he will be up against the best of the best in what has arguably become the most widely watched scholastic competition in the world.
“I think I can make it to the finals, but I’d like to get lucky and be in the top 10,” Wiggins said. “If I can’t win, I would at least like to get that far.”
The 90th national bee, which includes numerous events and activities for the competitors and their families, runs from Tuesday to June 3. Wiggins, an eighth-grader at Thomas C. Armstrong Middle School in the Wayne Central School District, is sponsored by the Finger Lakes Times and Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES. He is leaving today with his parents — Brandon and Lisa Wiggins — and younger brothers Parker and Carter.
Every competitor starts with an online test Tuesday, followed by the preliminary rounds (broadcast on ESPN3) on Wednesday. The finals, which can be seen on ESPN2, start at 10 a.m. Thursday followed by the championship rounds at 8:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN).
Wiggins prevailed in a 14-round duel with Manchester-Shortsville seventh-grader Anna Penird to win the regional bee in his fourth and final attempt. That earned him an all-expenses-paid trip to the national bee.
Wiggins spelled “femininity” for the win at Hobart and William Smith, although he and Penird ripped through a number of uncommon, obscure words in the rounds before that.
Wiggins, a multi-sport athlete at Wayne who just finished his tennis season, said he has been studying the online Encyclopedia Britannica when he can to prepare for the national bee. In addition to other study aids he has also been getting help from his mother, who worked with him before the regional competition.
Wiggins also was chosen to make a 30-second video for a “talent show” event as part of the bee. Wiggins, who also plays basketball and is a big Syracuse University fan, had his mother record a video of him making 3-pointers for the talent segment; the videos will be put on the Scripps National Spelling Bee website (spellingbee.com).
Wiggins said in addition to the spelling bee, he is looking forward to a Memorial Day barbecue for the competitors and their families at Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals major league baseball team plays. He also will be attending a Baltimore Orioles game later in the week vs. the Boston Red Sox.
“I’m also excited about seeing all the sights in Washington and all the museums,” said Wiggins, who will making his first trip to the nation’s capital.