Four years ago while watching older students compete in his schools spelling bee, third-grader Junus Searcy wanted the chance to prove he was a champion speller.
The following year, Junus won his schools spelling bee and moved on to the Bibb County competition, open to school winners in the fourth through eighth grades.
Junus, now a seventh-grader at Rutland Middle School, didnt make it to the regional spelling bee that year, but hes been there every year since.
Its challenging, Junus said. I like a challenge.
Friday morning, the 13-year-old will compete to become the state spelling bee champion at Georgia State University in Atlanta, his second consecutive trip to the state bee. Junus was among the top 10 state finalists, but ultimately didnt take the top prize. Neither he nor his mother, Josephine Searcy, can remember which word cost him the state title.
But this year, Junus is looking past 2012s disappointment.
I lost last year. Im planning on winning this year, he said.
He and 19 other Georgia elementary and middle school students hope to spell their way from Atlanta to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 28-30.
Junus thinks his chances of taking the national stage are good.
I think I can do it, he said. I believe in myself.
Already this year, the super speller made it to the state competition by spelling apricot correctly in Bibb Countys bee. From there, spelling the word anachronism led him to victory at the regional competition in February, after 67 rounds of competition.
In the evenings, he reviews the words for an hour or so with his mother, writing them, spelling them aloud and listening to the pronunciations of unfamiliar words online. Prayer is also part of Junus strategy for success.
He retains the words, Josephine Searcy said. I mean, hes like a sponge. He absorbs them.
Josephine Searcy also said his laid-back, relaxed attitude initially surprises people, but Junus studies hard for the bees.
It has been exciting every step of the way, she said.
Willett Waller, president of the Bibb Association of Educators -- the organization that sponsors the countywide spelling bee, said she is ecstatic to see Junus represent Bibb County at the state level again.
Im looking for Washington, D.C., Waller said. Hes a good speller.
As the state spelling bee approaches, Junus said he too is excited about the competition.
I cant wait, he said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.