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W-i-n-n-e-r: Local student heads to national spelling bee

Fruit Cove Middle seventh-grader prepares for trip to Washington, DC

ST. JOHNS, Fla. – A local student will soon make his way to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Sreeniketh Vogoti, a seventh-grader at Fruit Cove Middle School, beat out 13 competitors last week at regionals to move on to the main event.

How he's preparing to represent North Florida in the national competition.

“C-r-e-s-c-e-n-d-o …. Crescendo"

That was the word that took Vogoti to the next level.

"I was extremely happy," he said. "I can finally see all the historical places in D.C. and enjoy bee week."

Vogoti made it through 20 rounds in the regional bee, outspelling students from 13 other counties.

He's competed in other local bees and studied the word list.

"I used to go through novels, like sci-fi novels, and look at unfamiliar words and look at their definitions,” Vogoti said.

His dad also stepped in as his coach to get him prepared.

"My dad teaches me a lot of vocabulary words, because he's like a walking dictionary,” Vogoti said. “He knows all of them."

Although he seems like a shy guy, Vogoti said he knows exactly what to do to calm his nerves.

"Basically, (I) just tune them out completely,” he said. “Sometimes (you can) close your eyes and just focus on the wall or a certain place of the room and just think about nothing but the word."

And without a pen or paper, he has a habit of writing on his hand to make sure he gets each letter right.

"I thought it was a great method to just see the word on your hand, because I'm a visual learner,” Vogoti said.

He said that if he needs extra time, stalling is not a problem.

"I usually ask for a sentence, just to give me time to think,” he said. “Plus, Scripps gives a couple of funny sentences here and there, so I like to just listen to that and calm down on the stage."

Vogoti said he's interested in math and science and wants to pursue a career in physics. He also has a knack for spelling pretty much anything.

"Gesamtkunstwerk... G-e-s-a-m-t-k-u-n-s-t-w-e-r-k," he said, offering one example.

Until May, Vogoti will continue to prepare for the big day, studying the Scripps spelling bee lists, reading plenty of books and learning new words.

"I'm doing this basically for my love of spelling and the languages,” Vogoti said. “Winning is just a bonus. So best of luck to all of the spellers to compete, is all I have to say."