Three-time Augusta area spelling champion Rachael Cundey is in Washington today, preparing again for competition in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Perhaps the most recognizable academic competition in the world, the national spelling bee starts Tuesday.
Rachael, a rising seventh-grader at Lakeside Middle School, has been practicing at least two hours a day for more than a month to prepare herself, using 1,000 pages full of words used in previous national bees.
The 12-year-old said she has been studying word patterns and languages of origin, even taking an online course to learn Latin, as about one-third of the words she'll hear derive from it.
"A lot of people will probably think that's a lot of work, but this is really fun for her," said Rachael's mother, Tammy Cundey.
In her previous trips to the national bee, Rachael has not made it to the semifinals. She hopes to change that this year through her preparation.
"If you hear a word you don't know, you can figure it out from knowing the word patterns," she said.
The bee will start with a field of 275 contestants that will be whittled to about 50 for the semifinals. Rachael said the number of spellers making the final round varies from year to year.
With two more years of eligibility, Rachael said she hopes to eventually make it to the finals.
"After having been here three times, we understand better now what it is she needs to study and can better prepare," her mother said.