Taylor Underwood, a sixth-grader at Providence Christian School in Oxford, is headed to the state Spelling Bee for the first time. She won the region title over the weekend, and will compete in the next level of competition on March 16.
OXFORD -- Two years ago when Taylor Underwood saw the movie "Akeelah and the Bee," she dreamed that would be her one day at the national Spelling Bee.
Now she's one step closer to making that dream a reality.
Underwood, a sixth-grader at Providence Christian School in Oxford, won the regional bee over the weekend, earning a chance to compete at the state level next month.
"I was really hoping I could win," she said Monday, after the District 7 Spelling Bee at Putnam County Middle School on Saturday.
This is her second consecutive year competing in the district bee. Last year she came in at sixth place.
And before the region bee even took place, she knew she had what it took to move on, saying her goal was to make it to the state competition this year -- she would have even settled for second place too, just as long as it got her to the state.
"Taylor is not just a good speller -- she has a perfect grade point average since she began school," said her mother Heather Bowman of Covington. "She's very well-rounded and humble."
Underwood owes part of the honor for being able to make it this far to her mother -- Bowman, a teacher at Providence, enrolled the school in the national Scripps program so students could participate in local, regional, state and national spelling bees.
She also began the school's Spelling Club.
"Taylor has participated in the club and has studied for hours independently to learn over 1,000 new words," Bowman said. "She works very hard."
It also doesn't hurt that Underwood was a very early talker and learned how to read before preschool.
"If you can spell well, you are usually a better reader and it makes you seem smarter," she said.
At the region bee, she spelled words like ramada and nightingale; the winning word was souvenir.
"Last year, it was pretty hard, but this year, the other kids got out pretty fast," she said of the bee that lasted less than 10 rounds.
To prepare for the state bee, she will continue playing spelling games and taking spelling tests online, like she's been doing to prepare this year.
"She embodies what we're trying to produce here -- very driven and Christ-centered students," said school Headmaster Ty Hensley.
The state spelling bee is scheduled for March 16 at Georgia State University.