In Newton, there happens to be a young man who devours 300-plus page novels overnight, can play the clarinet well enough to be named to the 2013 South-Central Iowa Bandmasters Association District Honor Band and has had various roles in Newton Community Theatre productions over the years.
The previous examples provide just a small sample size of the things that Daniel Lopez-Sanders, 12, enjoys doing and can do fairly well.
Daniel also happens to be a very talented speller and just 11 days ago, he became the 2014 Iowa Knights of Columbus Spelling Bee Champion for seventh graders.
“Ehh, medium,” Daniel said, motioning his hands up and down when asked how hard it was to win that title.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming Daniel is over-confident based on that answer — he’s not. He was just very sure of himself based on how hard he prepared for the KOC’s local, regional and state spelling bees.
“I studied really hard with my mom,” Daniel said with a laugh.
And study hard the pair did.
Daniel and his mom, Lori, had been studying the 900-word spelling bee list released by KOC since the middle of January. The four pages it took to print off the list are covered with markings form various writing utensils — pens, pencils, highlighters — and feature everything from stars to check marks and up to encouraging words.
“I knew in my heart that Daniel very much had the capability to go far in this competition, because he and I had done lots of studying of the words, let me tell you,” Lori said. But his determination and confidence is what really helped him through this.”
“We went through the entire list a couple of times,” Daniel said. “But then, we would just go through the ones that I missed.”
If the results are any indication, it’s needless to say Daniel wasn’t missing very many words on the list by the time the state competition rolled around on March 2 in Ames.
“I wanted to (be the champion) but didn’t know if it would happen,” Daniel said.
Lori says that during the competition, her husband, Emigdio, and Daniel’s older brother, David, kept teasing her and calling her the “nervous mom.”
“I bet anything, I was way more nervous than Daniel was. I’m sure many other parents can relate to that feeling, when their kids compete in sports, music or in anything really,” Lori said. I just tensed up during the spelling bee. However, I was just so incredibly proud — and I must say relieved, as well — when he’d finally accomplished this incredible feat.”
Daniel simply sums up wining by saying it was “amazing.”
While a lot of people are fixated on this victory, Daniel has other current activities he’s turning his focus towards. At Berg Middle School, where he attends classes, he participates in yearbook, student council, band, chorus, jazz band, woodwind choir and “Cardinal Company,” which he describes as “an extra-curricular choir.”
“I’m not much of a sports person, but I’m into this type of stuff,” Daniel said. “My schedule can get pretty hectic, but it’s all worth it.”
With such a busy schedule, Daniel remains non-committal towards possibly trying out for the 2014-15 Scripps National Spelling Bee — next year would be his last eligible year— but admitted it could be a possibility.
For now, he is looking forward to Spring Break; however, he does offer some advice for those who want to take up the mantle of Iowa’s spelling bee champion next year.
“Three words: practice, practice, practice,” Daniel said.
Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.