KINGSTON — “PE-TER. PE-TER. PE-TER.”
Chanting his name and cheering, the student body at Good Shepherd Academy gave 12-year-old Peter Khoudary a royal send-off on Friday afternoon, the last day of school before he heads to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland.
“It’s surreal and extravagant and nice,” Peter said, showing his characteristic affinity for words at a pep rally during which cheerleaders shook sparkling pompoms and musician Frank Gervasi from The Poets got the young crowd singing along to such diverse songs as “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” “Sweet Caroline” and “God Bless America.”
Students — and teachers — danced in the bleachers, too, to “The Chicken Dance,” “The Pennsylvania Polka” and “Y-M-C-A,” with that last song title being oh-so-easy to spell out.
Peter can expect more challenging words at the bee, set for May 24-26 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, where recent champions have won a national trophy with scherenschnitte, nunatak, stichomythia and feuilleton.
His classmates are confident he’ll be able to handle words that don’t usually come up in everyday conversation.
“I think he’s gonna go pretty far,” said Jacob Drevitch, 13.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” agreed Bobby Hornlein, 12.
Peter won the chance to compete in the national bee during a regional bee the Times Leader sponsored in March. The Times Leader is one of dozens of newspapers, colleges and other organizations sending 285 girls and boys to the 2016 competition.
Peter’s success is the second time in three years that a student from Good Shepherd Academy won the Times Leader/Scripps Regional Bee, something Good Shepherd principal James Jones credits to “a good connection between the school and the home.”
“I’m very proud of Peter,” Jones said. “He’s one of the most well-rounded students I know.”
In addition to his strong academic record Peter is involved with forensics, soccer, basketball and the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science. He enjoys playing the piano and whitewater rafting, too.
As for Bee Week, which begins May 22 and culminates in an awards banquet May 27, it’s designed to be well-rounded with time for sight-seeing and socialization. The spellers take part in a preliminary, written test on Tuesday morning, and an onstage second round on Wednesday. The final rounds are set for Thursday.
Peter has been reviewing words a lot lately, usually with his parents, Malak and Dr. Raymond Khoudary, but on a recent Wednesday afternoon his 10-year-old sister, Theresa, quizzed him at their home in Dallas.
“Turn the paper so I don’t see it,” he reminded her before launching into such words as “bolognese,” “habeas corpus” and “pyrophyte.”
“I need harder words,” he told his sister, who replied she’s not sure how to pronounce the harder words.
Theresa, who is in fourth grade at Good Shepherd Academy, was dancing and clapping at Friday’s pep rally, alongside her brother. Their parents attended, too, along with older siblings Maria, 19, who is a student at Boston College, and Anthony, 17, who is a student at Holy Redeemer High School.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT