Of all the words in the English language to be assigned to spell, this little four-letter word poses a big challenge. After all, we don’t say it much in casual conversation, the arrangement of letters is diabolically tricky and it’s likely we don’t know what it means.
It took 11-year-old Cairo-Durham Middle School 6th-grader Kingston Czajkowski (How do you spell...?) to break down this most puzzling of words, spell it correctly and win the Capital Region Spelling Bee.
With that Kingston punched his ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C., the only student in this area to make the cut. “Ankh” — a-n-k-h — is an Egyptian word for a symbol of life, Kingston told us Wednesday. How perfect is “ankh” for an 11-year-old who knows who he is at such a young age? It seems fitting that he won by spelling a word that heralds so much promise.
This uncommonly disciplined lad prepares for spelling bees the way professional athletes prepare for big games.
Learning the origin or root of words is part of Kingston’s studying technique with a coach of sorts — his spelling tutor, Drew Sirago, a Cairo-Durham 11th-grader. He prepares by studying the Greek and Latin roots of words with flashcards and watching videos of other regional and state spelling bees on Youtube, just as athletes watch game film.
Yet Kingston is neither nerd nor brainiac. Sure, he’s studious, wears glasses and competes with his mind, but he’s also athletic and loves sports. He is active in soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming and baseball. It’s what we used to call fully rounded.
If Kingston takes first place in the Scripps National, which is the World Series of spelling bees, something positive will come out of this winter of our discontent. It was a spectacular victory in the Capital Region Spelling Bee. If he emerges victorious in Washington, another spelling bee word applies here: H-i-e-r-o-p-h-a-n-t. For us, it means champion.