South Alabama fifth-grader headed to National Spelling Bee after making perfect score at state competition

Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Straughn Elementary School fifth-grader Dhilan Patel had an eventful Spring Break, winning the Alabama State Spelling Bee.

After years of not being able to beat his brother Taj Patel to go to the State Spelling Bee, on his first attempt, D. Patel took the trophy.

“It is really exciting to win,” D. Patel said. “I mean, it was my first time getting to be there, because Taj beat me out the other times.”

Though Taj never won the Alabama State Spelling Bee, D. Patel said things in the house are still chill.

“I don’t pick on him or anything,” D. Patel said. “Everything in the house is cool.”

To prepare for the State Spelling Bee, D. Patel said he studied word lists and vocabulary, which is what he is going to be doing for the National Spelling Bee, as well.

“I will be studying more than ever now that I am going to the National Spelling Bee,” D. Patel said. “I probably studied for about three hours every day on and off.”

With the win, D. Patel will participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is a little different this year because of COVID-19. It will be online, until it is narrowed down to the Top 12. The Top 12 will then get invited to go to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.

“I am excited to compete and represent Covington County,” D. Patel said. “Hopefully this will get this county famous.”

D. Patel would like to thank his family, classmates and his pet parakeets for motivating him and supporting him.

This year, the Alabama Spelling Bee was a virtual test of 25 spelling words and 25 vocabulary words because of COVID-19. D. Patel scored a perfect score to win.