“Metacarpal” is not a word that many know how to define or spell, but it was a word that popped up at the perfect moment in Frank Cahill’s life.
“As soon as I heard it, I knew I had it and was very excited,” the Ave Maria Catholic School eighth-grader said of the adjective that made him the Colorado State Spelling Bee champion March 10.
The day did not start out so easily. Frank ran up against a handful of words he did not recognize. His solution? Dissecting their etymology and language of origin.
The 14-year-old not only takes pride in his appreciation for the English language, but also excels in other academic fields. Frank qualified for the state final in math earlier this year, only to realize that it fell on the same day as the spelling bee. He weighed his options and elected to attend the bee, which he figured he had a better shot at winning.
It was a good choice. His third try at clinching the state title was a charm, ensuring him a spot at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May.
One of Frank’s opponents will be Lori Anne Madison, the darling 6-year-old girl from Virginia who has become an Internet sensation since qualifying for the nationally televised event.
Frank’s father, Mike, cannot explain his son’s prowess with words. He says he is the type of guy who is thankful for “spell check.” Frank is instead helped along by coach Scott Isaacs, who decided after a few weeks of one-on-one sessions to come out of retirement and mentor the young man.
Isaacs has an astounding track record, winning the state spelling bee in 1987, 1988 and 1989. He went on to win the national title in 1989.
The nine months of cramming clearly paid off. Frank has a new level of confidence going into nationals. His younger sister, Noelle, is following in his footsteps. The sixth-grader took part in the state bee, but did not make it to the final rounds.
When asked whether he might make a career out of his etymological knowledge, Frank says he has not made any decisions. After all, he has demonstrated proficiency in math, theater and music.
Frank is first chair violin with the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra. The teen also plays basketball and lacrosse. His options are wide open.
“At this point, I think I will try out a lot of new things and get a feel for what I like,” he said. “It could go anywhere at this point.”
Mike Cahill beams with pride when describing his son’s accolades. He urges the young man to give himself more credit. He offers encouragement in whatever his children decide to do.
“It’s great seeing your kids pick something they love to do and putting their heart and soul into it,” said Mike Cahill, who moved his family to Parker in 1998. “A win is just icing on the cake.”
“Metacarpal,” by the way, is the bone that forms the knuckles of the hand.