Straughn teen makes second go at National Spelling Bee

Taj Patel of Straughn, AL is competing in the National Spelling Bee. (Source: WSFA)
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STRAUGHN, Ala. (WSFA) -- The word of the day for Taj Patel is “dedication.” He’s dedicated to doing better than he did last year at the National Spelling Bee. “I tied for 42nd," he said.

That’s No. 42 out of more than 500 contestants who gathered in the nation’s capital.

“You really have to focus and make sure that you don’t say the wrong letters," Patel explained.

Welcome to the teenager’s world of soaking in all the big words in Mr. Webster’s 1,600 page volume. Taj Patel is a student at Straughn Middle School in Covington County.

“It’s changed my thought process. I can focus on things more and do things that are easier now," he stated.

If he goes all the way, Patel could win a whopping $40,000.

“You know there are a lot of things Taj can turn in and he would use it in regular conversation," said one of his teachers, Marshall McGlaun.

At just 14, Patel is a veteran speller. It started when he was in kindergarten. Even back then, he loved word, those big tricky words such as ‘golgi’ and ‘katharevousa,’ the ones he wrote down and studied today at school.

“It’s always been my parents’ dream to send me up there," said Patel.

“I am not the most accurate speller, and then you have him," said friend Wyatt Smith. “You just put anything in front of him and he spells it perfectly.”

Patel will be the first to admit he often gets bored keeping his nose buried in the dictionary, but he’s found a way to overcome it; study more words.

“I just don’t think about the boredom," he admitted.

Taj Patel is still a few days away from leaving for Washington. Until then, it’s more jotting down words, more spelling, more pronunciation and cleaving those syllables to the letter with the hope he’ll spell his way to victory on the big stage.

This will be his last opportunity to compete in the National Spelling Bee because he will age out.

The National Spelling Bee is for May 27th in Washington.

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