ANDERSON, Ind. — After nine tough rounds of competition, Tristan Hankins, a student at Highland Middle School, won the 2014 Herald Bulletin spelling bee and a trip to the nation's capital.
Hankins, a sixth-grader, won after the runner-up, Jeffrey Krieg, missed "lathery." Hankins then spelled "esquire" and "malformed" to win the bee and a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
After correctly spelling the final word, Hankins looked around in disbelief before giving Krieg a celebratory hug.
"I feel like 20 tons have been lifted off my back," Hankins said afterward. "I feel like everything I have done since the third grade has paid off. It's unbelievable."
Hankins was in the 2013 spelling bee, which he said definitely helped him this year. He said knowing the rules and how the competition worked made him feel a little more at ease.
"Competing last year gave me some familiarity," he said.
Hankins' mom, Whitney Knight, said she was amazed with how calm her son seemed throughout the whole competition.
"He was fine and I was over there shaking," Knight said. "He's always been a great speller and he loves to read. That's just his thing."
As for the trip to Washington, D.C., Knight said she is looking forward to the trip. She said Hankins has never been there and wants to do some sightseeing in addition to the national competition. The Scripps National Bee begins on May 25 and runs through May 31. The final rounds of the competition are aired on ESPN.
The night began with 18 students from local elementary and middle schools. The competitors went down in groups with four spellers falling in the first round. One student went down in round two, three left after round three and three more fell after round four.