TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- It starts innocently enough, with words many adults can spell.
Of course, the participants in the Lee County Spelling Bee are middle schoolers, so it's a bit more difficult for them.
Six kids are competing for not only bragging rights, but a trip to the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis.
All of them have their own strategies for winning, like Blake Harrell.
"Spelling usually comes naturally for me," Harrell said. "I've barely studied."
Harrell said that helped him decide to compete, after winning spelling contests in his class and Mooreville Middle School.
While he and the contestants are anxious to win, their parents -- like Stephanie Roland -- are there for support.
"I'm just proud that he's not too shy to try," Roland said. "I'm just proud that he's willing to get out there and do that because that's not something I would have done at his age. I wouldn't have even tried."
As the countywide spelling bee begins, one by one, contestants are eliminated.
After ten rounds, two contestants remain: Maria Kaltchenko and Jacob Roland, Stephanie Roland's son.
Jacob misses his attempt, then Maria spells her word and the championship word correctly, winning the contest.
As trophies for the three best spellers were handed out, Maria's mother Svetlana says her daughter's work ethic helped ensure her success.
"She's a pretty smart child, and I don't need to push her to study. She wants to do well, she wants to do better than [I] did, she wants to achieve more and she's ready to work," Svetlana Kaltchenko said.
"The first round was kind of scary, but then after the first round, I got comfortable; I wasn't nervous after that," Lee County Spelling Bee champion Maria Kaltchenko said.
Maria's winning words were "charisma" and "kinetic."
Her secret to success for the competition: lots of reading.