UNION COUNTY, N.C. — S-E-M-I-F-I-N-A-L-S
One eighth grader from Union County is spelling his way to success on a national stage.
Sreethan Gajula, 14, punched his ticket to the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday, June 15, and is now lone representative from North Carolina in the competition.
Gajula is among 30 students nationwide that made it to the next leg of the spelling bee.
Gajula attends Marvin Ridge Middle School and is sponsored by the Carolina Panthers.
"It was really a surreal experience," Gajula said about making it to the semifinals. "Soon as she said, 'that is correct,' a lot of emotions were rushing through my mind. I was kind of in a state of shock... it was a really fruitful day today."
The level of support has been a sight to see for Gajula and his family. Union County Public Schools is just one of the groups posting online and showing they’re behind the speller.
"My school supported me so much," he said. "They've given me so much support and given so much confidence in me."
Gajula also thanked the Carolina Panthers for sponsoring him in the competition and the support they've given him.
Gajula said he's wanting to put Charlotte on the map during this year's spelling bee, and wants to represents past and current spellers that competed in the event.
"This is a really humbling and honorable experience," he added.
Several North Carolina and South Carolina representatives qualified for this year’s event, along with Gajula. The North Carolina students include Brianna Jimison (Charlotte), Rishidharan Jayakumar (Charlotte), Logan Edwards (Charlotte), Cana Gerald (Durham), Abigail Lollis (Lillington), Kristen Carrington (Smithfield), Zachary Thurnher (Fayetteville), James Dover (Gastonia), London Cornwell (Shelby) and Riley Crysell (Wilson).
Students from South Carolina that made it to the event include Lukas Chavis (Florence), Keerthana Samuel (Charleston) and Na’amah Morbeth (Spartanburg).
There’s never a dull moment for Gajula, either.
According to his biography on the Scripps’ spelling bee website, he and his friends are working on a research project about plastic decomposition and “altering the process of decomposition to make it faster and more effective.”
Gajula also competes in different spelling bees and enjoys playing tennis and video games with his friends.
As far as what's ahead, the Marvin Ridge student said he's preparing for the next leg of the spelling bee, and offered some words of advice for others looking to get into event.
"Working hard will always pay off," Gajula said. "Dedication, passion... those are keys for success."
The semifinals for the Scripps National Spelling Bee will air live on ESPN2 and ESPNU on Sunday, June 27, at 7 p.m. The finals are also set for July 8.
You can learn more about the event by clicking here.