Pooja Prabakaran didn't think much of the word "gargoyle" but spelled it correctly Wednesday to win the Muscogee County School District's Annual Spelling Bee at the Columbus Museum.
"I'm very happy," said Pooja, an eighth-grader at Blackmon Road Middle School.
She was given the winning word after runner-up Nicolas Duncan of Veterans Memorial Middle School misspelled "nonchalant." Prabakaran spelled both correctly.
Both students will compete in the regional District 6 spelling bee on Feb. 23 in Fort Valley. Victor Williams, an eighth-grader at Fort Middle School, will serve as an alternate.
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The winner in the regional competition will advance to the state spelling bee, said Lisa Roberts, spelling bee coordinator.
Pooja, the daughter of Krishnan and Deepa Prabakaran, placed second in the spelling bee last year. She was one of 46 students from elementary and middle schools throughout Muscogee County competing when the 2013 contest started at 10 a.m. in Patrick Theater.
When asked how difficult it was to spell the last two words, "nonchalant" and "gargoyle," Pooja just shrugged and smiled. She said she studied for 30 minutes on most days to prepare for the competition. The key to winning was knowing as many words as possible, she said.
She plans to attend Columbus High School, but hasn't decided on a college yet. She wants to become an astronaut or work in the science field. "I like science and math," she said.
Placing second in the spelling bee was a pretty good honor for Nicolas. It is the highest he has placed in three contests without much preparation.
"I never have time to study," he said. "I have a lot of homework to do."
The son of Roya and Mo Duncan, Nicolas said he concentrated on words that would have stumped him to prepare.
"I learned 50 words I knew I would have gotten wrong," he said.
Nicolas, who plays piano and sings, plans to become a musician.