Meet Maximus Katsoulis, first Blackduck student to advance to Scripps National Spelling Bee

With nationals coming up at the end of May, he hopes to at least make it to quarterfinals and thanks all of his teachers for their support up to this point.

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Blackduck's Maximus Katsoulis is set to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held May 31 through June 2 in Washington D.C.

BLACKDUCK — Not only is eighth-grader Maximus Katsoulis the second-ever Blackduck student to advance to a state spelling bee, but he’s also the first to spell his way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Blackduck High School’s history.

Taking place from May 31 to June 2, Katsoulis will represent Minnesota in Washington, D.C., to show off his vast vocabulary.

“I am very excited to be a part of the national spelling bee to represent my school and state,” Katsoulis said before adding, “I am excited to take my first plane ride!”

He was involved in spelling bee competitions last school year, making it to regionals where he misspelled the word “turbulence.”

This year, Katsoulis made it through 15 rounds against 19 other spellers from throughout the state during the Multi-Regional State Spelling Bee in Fergus Falls in late February, with words ranging from “cauterize” to “trepanation” to “sheldrake.” His winning word, “soiree,” sealed his victory.


“I repeatedly stated ‘oh my gosh’ and was literally jumping up and down,” Blackduck English teacher Kari Slindee said regarding the moment she found out about Katsoulis’ win at state. “I was so excited for Max.”

Katsoulis is currently preparing for nationals in the same way he prepared for previous competitions including state, the Feb. 8 regional spelling bee in Thief River Falls and the Blackduck spelling bee in January.

“I studied nightly. I study from my Scripps Spelling Bee packet,” he detailed. “Occasionally, I have to look words up on Google to hear the correct pronunciation.”

Slindee mentioned Katsoulis has always been a good speller, but that he studied religiously after qualifying for this year’s regional competition.

“He began to study the origin of the words,” Slindee said. “He listened to the pronunciation of the words. He studied the definitions of the words.”

Slindee has even allowed Katsoulis to study for the competitions during class.

“I think that if a person qualifies for the national spelling bee, then that person no longer needs to worry about English 8 spelling,” Slindee added.

With Slindee also teaching German classes, Katsoulis has even asked her for information on spelling German words and those in other languages.


Katsoulis considers overthinking to be his biggest challenge as it sometimes leads to him second-guessing his spellings. He takes breaks from studying to avoid burnout.

With nationals coming up in less than three months, he hopes to at least make it to the quarterfinals and thanks all of his teachers for their support up to this point.

“I hope that a trip to our nation’s capital will instill a lifelong desire to travel,” Slindee left off about Katsoulis. “I hope that Max will realize that he is capable of great things and that hard work pays off.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will be televised on ION and Bounce TV.

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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