Rockford-area teen makes history at Boone-Winnebago Regional Spelling Bee

Wolfgang Schaff, 13, poses with his trophy and medal Thursday, March 17, 2022, on the grounds of Rock Valley College. Schaff is the first homeschooled student to ever win the Boone-Winnebago Regional Spelling Bee.
Wolfgang Schaff, 13, poses with his trophy and medal Thursday, March 17, 2022, on the grounds of Rock Valley College. Schaff is the first homeschooled student to ever win the Boone-Winnebago Regional Spelling Bee.

For the first time in the history of the Boone-Winnebago Regional Spelling Bee, a homeschooled student has been crowned the winner.

With his victory at the regional bee Wednesday night, eighth-grader Wolfgang Schaff can now start preparing for the lauded Scripps National Spelling Bee, held in the Washington, D.C., area on June 2.

Wednesday night's competition consisted of 19 students, each representing a different area school.

Students competed for 20 rounds before Schaff spelled the words "parliamentary" and "hydrophobia" for the win and a free trip to Washington to compete at nationals.

"I got to spell the word parliamentary. I couldn't believe my luck. I knew that word. And then, when I got hydrophobia, I was like, I know this word. This is awesome," Schaff said.

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In addition to earning a trip to nationals, Schaff was awarded a $400 gift card and a certification to online access to the Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam Webster.

Second place winner, Omeed Esfahani, 12, seventh-grader from Keith County Day School was awarded a $200 gift card and a trophy. Third place winner Julissa Negron, 12, seventh-grader from Roscoe Middle School was awarded a $100 gift card and a commemorative plaque.

Wolfgang Schaff, 13, shows off the medal he received for winning the Boone-Winnebago Regional Spelling Bee on Thursday, March 17, 2022, on the grounds of Rock Valley College.
Wolfgang Schaff, 13, shows off the medal he received for winning the Boone-Winnebago Regional Spelling Bee on Thursday, March 17, 2022, on the grounds of Rock Valley College.

Wolfgang, who was named in honor of his German heritage, is taught by his mother, Michele Schaff.

Despite being confident in her son's ability, Michelle Schaff said she still went into Wednesday night a little nervous that her son didn't have as much practice as other children spelling out loud in front of an audience.

"I kind of was worried about the fact that it might be a disadvantage," Schaff said. "Kids who go through the public school system have the practice of standing up and having more classroom bees and school bees. They have more experience in the competition."

Schaff said she left most of the studying up to her son.

"If he wanted to do this, he was going to have to practice and make it something that he earned," she said.

With nationals on the horizon, Wolfgang Schaff, said he wants to keep it simple — to keep studying and try to remember how to spell as many words as possible.

"I want to learn as many words as I can, so I'm as prepared as possible," he said. "I want to see how far can I go."

Shaquil Manigault: smanigault@gannett.com; @RRstarShaquil

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Rockford-area teen on his way to Scripps National Spelling Bee