Going head-to-head with the trickiest words Merriam-Webster has to offer, Lakeview Academy student Dhruv Gaur was undaunted, surfacing as one of the region's best private-school spellers.
Dhruv, 12, was the runner-up of the Georgia Independent School Association Spelling Bee in Marietta.
The sixth-grader soldiered through a written round to break in to the top 20 by spelling words such as "cryonics," "spontaneous" and "disadvantageous."
Dhruv moved on to the final oral rounds against Julia Denniss, a Marist School student and two-time Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.
"The word I missed was ‘commissar,'" Dhruv said.
As the top two, Julia and Dhruv will both continue to the state competition March 18 at Georgia State University.
Dhruv said one of his training routines was to study the dictionary.
He also had a lot of family support.
Dhruv's mother, Swati, said his first-grade brother would call out words from lists and the dictionary. Dhruv also has received some coaching by his English teacher, Mary Casper.
He's repeating the training as he readies himself for state.
"I'm studying a lot again and flipping through the dictionary to look at words that are difficult," he said.
Swati Gaur has a theory about her son's exceptional spelling skills.
"He reads constantly. We all love to read," she said of her family. "It's become a battle in our household during bedtime; he asks if he can stop at the next chapter."
Dhruv said he has other activities to keep him occupied until the state spell-off. He's involved in baseball, drama, piano and robotics.
The state competition will feature the top 20 spellers from across Georgia. Each of the eight districts in the state will send their top two spellers — joined by the top spellers from GISA — to determine who will represent the state at nationals in Washington, D.C.
Dhruv will be joined at state by Parker Ramey of Da Vinci Academy who won the Hall County Spelling Bee this year for his fourth time.