DOYLESTOWN – Andrew Yeager is a young man of few words.
Luckily, the village resident who is set to compete for the second year in a row in the Scripps National Spelling Bee knows how to spell most of them.
Derek Yeager said he realized how few when he and his wife, Kelly, were registering their son for kindergarten.
When a teacher asked Andrew to count, he stopped at 20.
Biden bestows medal on local firefighter:East Wayne assistant fire chief visits White House, gets Medal of Valor for 2019 rescue
“Can you count higher than 20?”
“Yes,” Andrew said.
Derek, Kelly and the educator waited. After a few moments, Derek asked, “aren’t you going to count higher?”
“He just asked me if I could,” Andrew Yeager told his father.
Derek Yeager said his son hasn’t changed much in the proceeding nine years. He still says only what he needs to, and keeps pretty quiet the rest of the time.
Reserved Chippewa student ready to take national stage in spelldown
It’s not that the 14-year-old is shy, it’s more that he’s reserved. The student at Chippewa Jr./Sr. High School is open and speaks to those who engage him. You just need to kick things off.
In a couple of weeks, Yeager will be on a national stage in front of Scripps Bee Pronouncer Jacques Bailly, a gregarious sort who gives as good as he gets. In past Scripps Bees, Bailly has openly enjoyed when spellers have greeted him in other languages, responding in proper tongue to the prompt.
While it’s Yeager’s second consecutive Scripps National Spelling Bee appearance, it’s his first on stage at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Last year, Yeager competed in the bee’s earliest rounds from The Canton Repository’s newsroom, sitting at an editor’s desk for his virtual turn.
He spelled his first word, P-E-R-T-I-N-A-C-I-T-Y, correctly. He missed the vocabulary word that came next – CRINOLINE, which is a stiff fabric. Spellers who were correct on their first word, vocabulary word and then another spelling word moved on to the next level of competition.
The 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, Zalia Avant-garde, from a suburb of New Orleans, claimed her crown at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Yeager is pleased to get the chance to make the trip this year.
“I think it will be just a little more exciting just to go to Washington, D.C., this time, since I didn’t last year,” he said. “Last year, it kind of stunk that I wasn’t able to go.”
Yeager will hit the stage for this year’s 94th Scripps Bee on May 31 as Speller No. 124, likely stepping to the microphone in the mid-morning.
Vocabulary words are Andrew Yeager’s nemesis
During a conversation May 7 in his family’s kitchen, the eighth grader sounded much like he did before the 2021 event. He said he’s confident about the first word he’ll face. It’s the pesky vocabulary that has him concerned.
Spellers received lists of words to study for the earliest rounds – first spelling word and vocabulary word. Beginning with the third round, spellers are given words they have not studied.
When pressed, Yeager said his goal is to make it to the second day of spelling. There, he’ll face another vocabulary word. There’s one at each level of competition in the Scripps Bee.
During this year’s Akron Beacon Journal Regional Bee, Yeager said he was confident yet had a concern in the back of his mind.
“With studying, probably the thing I was the most worried about was it going off-list, which it didn’t do,” he said, describing the lengthy list of words spellers potentially could receive in qualifying bees for the national level. “I probably would have been more scared if it did, just because of the words I hadn’t studied.”
Derek Yeager said they had different feelings before the two regional bees, in 2021 and 2022.
“We had no expectation of where he was,” the elder Yeager said of the 2021 Regional Bee. “This year, I thought the pressure was maybe on a little more because if you’re the defending champion, even though it maybe wasn’t publicized because of the COVID thing, people know you’re the person coming back.”
The plight of spelling bee competitors is always recalling the words they miss
Andrew Yeager has competed in bees since he was a fifth grader, and finished second to his brother, Matthew, in that first one. Spelling Bee competitors always recall the words they miss, and Andrew quickly said his was “PLIGHT.”
Andrew Yeager has surpassed his brother’s achievements in spelling bees, though. Matthew, who now is a 17-year-old junior at Chippewa High, never won the ABJ Regional Bee.
“Of course, I’m better than him,” Andrew said with a rival tone only a little brother can display when they show up the older sibling. The family also includes younger brother Zach, 11, who this year won his school bee as a fifth grader.
Could yet another Yeager show up another older Yeager? Stay tuned.
When he’s not practicing his spelling and playing organized baseball, Yeager enjoys video games, including Minecraft.
Scripps Bee participants this year get to select activities to complete while their peers are on stage, and one of Yeager’s was a game design course involving Minecraft. Another will be joining a guided tour of the Washington sites. He’s been to the nation’s capital before, with his father and older brother over a spring break a few years ago.
Yeager also performs in his school’s band, playing the snare drum. Mom Kelly said the family will be buying him a drum set soon.
If you watch the Scripps Bee on TV, be on the lookout for Derek Yeager, a physical therapist.
“I wear orange all the time for when he spells,” Derek Yeager said. “It just so happened. I’m a little superstitious, especially with baseball and stuff. One year when he won, I was like, ‘I’m wearing orange,’ I’ll wear the same shirt, and then, oh, he won again. I always wear something orange.”
This year, though, Derek said, Andrew “didn’t care.” He did, though, wear the same jacket on stage both years during the Regional Final.
How to watch the bee
Scripps National Spelling Bee can be viewed in a new place this year. The bee’s semifinals will be broadcast June 1 and the finals can be viewed June 2 on ION’s platforms. The bee also has added actor and longtime education advocate LeVar Burton as host. Burton was the longtime host of the PBS television show “Reading Rainbow.” For full details and the bee schedule, check out spellingbee.com.