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Kaneland Connection: Fifth-grader reigns at D-302 spelling bee

Blackberry Creek Elementary School fifth-grader Ben Manugas added another honor to a growing list last week when he won the Kaneland School District 302 spelling bee.

Ben, 10, has collected three consecutive spelling bee titles at Blackberry Creek, winning the most recent contest Thursday at Kaneland High School. The final two words were persimmon and ominous. The school’s principal, Andrew Gibbs, said he noticed that Ben smiled when he heard the word “persimmon.”

“They were both easy,” Ben said. “I studied them.”

Ben will move on to the Kane County Spelling Bee. Last year, he competed at that level, but he said he was out after one round. But because he has been there before, he said there would be no reason to be nervous.

The top 10 spellers from each elementary school – Blackberry Creek, John Stewart, John Shields and McDole – are eligible for the district bee. Gibbs said there were 38 participants.

Ben credited his parents, Benedict and Margarita. He said his dad will give him the list, and he would practice. He said his family celebrated by taking him to McDonald’s for a meal. He is active in tae kwon do, and he has achieved a deputy black belt, making him “almost a black belt.”

Gibbs said that Ben is known at Blackberry Creek for his spelling ability. Gibbs said there was a good turnout at the bee.

“He had his own little cheering section,” Gibbs said. “I was glad we had a number of students from our Blackberry Creek community who supported all 10 [of the school’s participants].”

Second vending machine
at Metra station

A second vending machine has the green light to be placed at the Metra Station in Elburn. Village officials reviewed the plans at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, and it has been placed on the consent agenda for next week’s Village Board meeting.

Aurora resident Patrick Meister operates the existing machine, which dispenses beverages. He intends to put in a second machine, which will dispense baked chips, nuts and trail mix. He said the first machine is doing well. The Metra Station is at 43W166 Keslinger Road.

These are the first two vending machines owned by Meister, who describes himself as “more of a Web-based guy.” He works at an insurance company and is planning to launch a website. He decided to put in the vending machines for a simple reason – he went to the station and noticed that there were no machines there.

“I like Elburn,” he said. “It’s a cool town.”

Cast for ‘West Side Story’

The cast list for Kaneland High School’s performance of “West Side Story” has been posted on the high school’s website. The performances are set for March 15 to 17.

Among those listed in the cast are: Tucker DeBolt (Tony), Kayla Hedgren (Maria), Andrew Tobin (Riff), Mitch Bateman (Barnardo), Rachel Miller (Anita) and Matt Alfrey (Chino).

The Jets were listed as Alec Kovach, Cory Nordine, Ben Mitchinson, James Tockstein, Carter Taylor and Michael Kinder.

The Sharks were listed as Jay Von Swain, John Purnell, John Venneri, John Briggs and Beau Ott.

Adults were listed as Beau Ott, Alex Buzenski, Johnny Heuman and Kyra Trynoski.

Jet Girls were Emily Grams, Kelsey Cotton, Nora Murphy, Katelyn Blaszynski, Brianne Claypool, Paige Krueger and Maddie Heinzer.

Shark Girls were Sydney Luse, Emily Laundont, Erika Carlson, Katie Kenkel, Amy Croft, Nicole DiSandro, Anna Hayman, Allison Kadampelil, Rachel Benson and Stephanie Maras.

American Dancers were Brittany Larsen, Laken Delahanty, Anu Kadampelil and Lanita Vanderschaaf.

Maggie Wallace will perform as a soloist.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at

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