Federal Way 8th-grader heads to local spelling bee championship

Leviathan: L-E-V-I-A-T-H-A-N. Leviathan.

Can you use “leviathan in a sentence?”

Abdel Eltayeb is a leviathan of spelling.

A leviathan is a powerful creature, a monster or ruler. It’s also the word that Federal Way Public Academy eighth-grader Eltayeb spelled correctly, winning his school’s spelling bee and propelling him to compete in this Sunday’s King/Snohomish County Spelling Bee.

If the 13-year-old wins on Sunday, he’ll go to the national championship, the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in the nation’s capital.

“This is my first spelling bee, so I don’t know how it’ll go down,” he says. “But I feel pretty confident.”

He’s honed his spelling skills by reading. He likes the mystery, science fiction and adventure genres, and, particularly, the Percy Jackson series of books. He knew how to spell “leviathan” because of his interest in Greek mythology.

The most recent spelling bee that he won was only his second. He took third place in a sixth-grade spelling bee a couple of years ago. One of his favorite words at the moment is “stupendous.” And he admits words with that tricky “ie” combination (I before E except after C, etc.) are, well, tricky. He’s preparing for Sunday’s competition, at Town Hall in Seattle, by studying the book “Words You Should Know How to Spell.” He just learned “Riesling” (a type of grape used for wine) and “argosy” (a merchant ship, specifically from Ragusa or Venice in Italy).

Kela Harrington, an eighth-grader from Islander Middle School on Mercer Island, won last year’s King/Snohomish bee. Does Eltayeb think he can bring home a title for Federal Way?

“Yeah, that would be pretty nice for a first time around,” he says. “I know it won’t be easy.

“There will be a challenges ahead,” he says in a tone of voice like a leviathan making a stern pronouncement.

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