Seventh grader, Varun Kukkillaya, from John Adams Middle School in Charleston, WV is the new 2014 Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee champion. After 20 grueling rounds on Saturday he became victorious with spelling the winning word "abysmal".
Varun says while he is nervous during competitions, he focuses on staying calm so he can perform his best. He doesn't consider himself competitive, but that nervous energy is fuel to test your limits. Winning of course feels amazing he says. It was his first time at the regional spelling bee, so he didn't expect to win.
Varun's love of spelling came from his natural desire to learn and from his parents motivating him. He says he loves reading books and has a natural talent for memorization.
Going the distance takes passion, dedication, and of course hitting the books. Varun actually carries around lists of words wherever he goes and studies them in his spare time. He uses origin skills to help spell difficult words. For example, Varun says it helps to know that often the letter J in Spanish words are actually pronounced with an H sound.
For Varun it's well worth the effort. He says he wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor. He believes the title of spelling bee champion will increase his chances of getting into his first choice college.
There are many perks to being the winner including a $2,500 SMART529 savings account which will help ease the burden of college expenses.
The next step for Varun in his blossoming spelling career will be taking on the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May in Washington D.C.