Freshman Marcus Behling goes national in spelling bee


Emma Fernandez

Freshman Marcus Behling (right) walks down the hallway on his way to class. Over the summer, Behling went to the semi-finals in the national spelling bee.

Kendall MacGregor, Staff Reporter

Months of studying, quizzing, and weeks of preparation: this is what it takes to become a nationally ranked spelling champion.    

Freshman Marcus Behling competed in the National Spelling Bee in Maryland this summer, earning himself eleventh place over all.

The journey began on home turf. Behling began competing in district and state spelling bees. But that was never enough. Making it to Nationals has been something Behling has strived for ever since his older brother made it in his eighth grade year.

At the national level, Behling was only one of 285 competitors. He was one of the oldest; the age range was anywhere between third and eighth grade. With only one more shot at Nationals, the pressure was definitely on for Behling. “I just hoped I would make it to nationals,” recounts Behling.   

Indeed, Behling made it, surviving as other students were slowly weeded out. One of the most important strategies to calm his nerves was, “to just take my time.”

Behling ended up making it into the semifinals, his winning words being “apivorous” and “vernissage.”  Although he did not miss a word he did not score high enough on the written test to advance to the finals. During the process he took two written tests; one to get into the semifinals and another to make it into finals, which Behling adds, “was ridiculously hard.”

Making it to nationals was no easy process. For two years he had prepared intensely by learning Greek and Latin roots and intensive computer programs. His mom, Sheryl Behling, a private spelling bee coach for Hexco, a company that produces study materials for standardized tests, spelling, and geography bees, was a strong influence for him.

The process of watching her son being quizzed on stage while being surrounded by reporters and ESPN cameras “was both excited and nerve-wracking.” She recounts Behling’s determination, “He was extremely motivated to make it to the National Bee. He had his goal in mind and he wanted to do whatever it took to make it there.” Behling started on his track record to success with countless hours spent studying leading up to Nationals.

His sister, junior, Maryn Behling commented, “I would come home after school and [my brother] would just be practicing. I would come home from practice hours later and he’d still be studying.” She credits his ultimate success to long hours practicing to reach perfection.

Those long hours eventually paid off for him. Behling’s love for languages and thousands of hours studying came in handy, making Arizona and CUSD proud.