Although he perfectly spelled out "perfectionism" to win the sixth-grade level of the city spelling bee, Jesse Yi, 11, wasn't too sure going in.
"I tried to make myself confident in the beginning, saying, 'It's OK if I don't win. I'm glad I just got here,'" he said. "So I'm shocked that I actually won."
After winning bees at their respective schools, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students competed in the annual citywide spelling bee Thursday at Bethlehem Lutheran School. Winners advanced to the state competition in Las Vegas.
It will be the second time at the state bee for Carson Middle School seventh-grader Natalie Anderson, 12, who won Thursday's competition.
She credits her repeated success to consistent studying, but also to her lifestyle.
"I read a lot, so I get a bunch of words in my head," she said. "I just picture them and spell them."
Her win did not come too easily, however.
Competitor Steve Renato, 12, from Eagle Valley Middle School, battled 11 rounds before misspelling "stimulus."
Still, he said, he was happy with his performance.
"I just moved here about a year ago," he said. "This is a big experience for me. Since I came here, my grades have improved really well. I think I just did really well all together."
The eighth-grade competition was a different kind of battle.
Out of nine rounds, the final two competitors each misspelled seven words.
Jia Wong-Fortunato eked out a win by spelling correctly "augury," followed by "solitaire."
For the state competition, she said, "I'm going to find some better techniques."
Anderson is also hoping to change things up for the state bee, where she placed fifth last year.
"Last year, I messed up on a word I knew, which makes it even worse," she said. "I want to get first this year. Or I at least want to get out on a word I don't know."
Winners of the 2013 citywide spelling bee:
Sixth grade: Jesse Yi, Eagle Valley Middle School
Seventh grade: Natalie Anderson, Carson Middle School
Eighth grade: Jiavanna Wong-Fortunato, Carson Middle School
Sixth grade: Troy Murray, Carson Middle School; Thomas Mellum, Bethlehem Lutheran School; and Jacob Toreson, Carson Montessori School
Seventh grade: Steve Ronato, Eagle Valley Middle School and Alexandra Zoellner, Bethlehem Lutheran School
Eighth grade: Stephen Rash, Eagle Valley Middle School and Ramneek Dhami, Bethlehem Lutheran School