CHARLOTTE, NC (Jane Wester/Charlotte Observer) - The 2018 Charlotte Observer Spelling Bee winner relies on preparation, not luck.
No special socks or pre-bee rituals here: The way Eva Vega, 14, gets ready for competition would be familiar to plenty of people of all ages.
"I read a lot," she said.
Reading a lot has worked well for Vega, whose victory Monday marked her fourth time at or near the top of Charlotte-area spelling excellence.
In 2016, she won the Observer's bee and reached the fourth round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. She came in second in the Observer's bee in 2015 and 2017.
This year, eighth-grader Chinmay Singh of Union Academy Charter School came in second after misspelling anasarca, a medical term for fluid accumulation in the body's connective tissues. Seventh-grader Will DeSena of Huntersville's St. Mark Catholic School placed third after misspelling palais – a French public building, courthouse or official residence.
Twenty-five spellers competed in the Wells Fargo Playhouse at ImaginOn Monday, representing 13 counties in the Carolinas. Seven, including Vega, had spelled in the Observer's bee at least once before.
Vega, now an eighth-grader at Marvin Ridge Middle School in Union County, said she was familiar with her final word in Monday's bee – "stramineous," which means straw-colored.
Actually, she was familiar with every word she got Monday, from llama in the first round to mantilla, commotion and diplodocus near the end. She said her years of experience have been useful.
"It's given me more experience with language rules, because it helps having to spell words from languages like German that I'm unfamiliar with," she said.
Instagram helps, too, Vega said. She follows the Scripps National Spelling Bee on the app and writes down the "word of the week."
To get ready for the national bee, Vega said she'll just keep reading and looking for strange words. Two years ago in Washington, she missed cypripedium, which is a type of orchid.