NEGAUNEE - There was nothing "deluded" about Rushil Kasetty thinking he had a shot at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., and that's exactly where he's headed.
"Deluded" was just one of the words the 14-year-old eighth grader from Holy Name Catholic School in Escanaba spelled correctly at Negaunee High School Wednesday to clinch the Upper Peninsula Community Education Association's 43rd annual U.P. Spelling Bee Finals.
Now Kasetty will head to the national competition in the nation's capital in May to face off against the best-spelling students from all over the country.
"I'm really excited," Kasetty said after his victory. "I really want to go to D.C. and compete."
In the U.P. finals, Kasetty faced off against fifth grader Christy Glodowski of Kingsford, and sixth grader Cali Cromell and seventh grader Marlee Matthews, both from Marquette Area Public Schools. Earlier Wednesday afternoon, all four finalists beat out 13 other aspiring spellers in their respective grades from seven regions across the U.P. to earn their spot in the championship round.
In the finals, Glodowski made it through two rounds before being tripped up over the word "collate."
Cromell was stymied a couple rounds later by "larder," leaving just the older two students Kasetty and Matthews.
When in the next round Matthews misspelled "flippant" - using an "e" instead of an "a" - Kasetty became the U.P.'s spelling champion by getting "flippant" right and then "soluble."
"It was a little bit hard. I got a little dry mouth, so I had some water, but it was pretty fun," Kasetty said. "Yeah, I liked it."
Kasetty has been competing in spelling bees for the past few years. The hardest word he got Wednesday was one that he messed up in an earlier round: "participable."
"I like learning about the words and just knowing more words," he said. "I just feel good when I know more words and have a good vocabulary."
According to Kasetty's mother, Meghana - who was there in the Negaunee High School auditorium to give her son a big hug when he came down off the stage with a trophy - the secret to his success is a love of reading.
"He likes to read. He's been a good reader since he was little," she said. "When we would go to the grocery store, I was pushing him in a cart -"
"That was a long time ago," he said. She laughed good-naturedly.
"Until he was in fourth grade, I would push him in a cart and he would sit in a cart reading books," she continued. "People everywhere see him reading books."
The Scripps National Spelling Bee Week will take place May 25-May 31. A full schedule of events will be available May 1 at www.spellingbee.com.