Praneethreddy “Praneeth” Devireddy likes to tussle with his brother, shoot Nerf guns and watch “Transformers,” all pretty typical behavior for an 8-year old boy.

He can also spell arcane, multisyllable words with stunning efficiency.

On Sunday, Praneeth spelled “laterite” and “horotelic” without skipping a beat to win the 78th annual Winston-Salem Journal Regional Spelling Bee at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.

A third-grader at Coddle Creek Elementary School in Mooresville, Praneeth will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

Drew Hey, representing Davidson County Public Schools, and Neo Morgan of the Home School District 2 finished as runners-up in a field of 31 spellers.

Drew misspelled sillographer, while Neo tripped up on polydomous.

Their misspellings left the door open for Praneeth, who was representing Iredell-Statesville Schools.

Five to six years younger than most of the competition, Praneeth passed the time during the two-hour competition swinging his feet back-and-forth and occasionally crossing his fingers for good luck.

But for all his fidgeting, Praneeth said he felt confident as he spelled each word.

“I felt like I knew how to spell all the words,” said Praneeth, holding a trophy that was nearly half his size.

That confidence came from practicing each day for about an hour with his mother, Himabindu Sivagamgireddy.

“He put in so much hard work,” she said. “We thought it would be good if he finished in the top five.”

Praneeth took to words early, picking up reading around the time he was 1½ years old. He especially liked early readers featuring the adventures of Geronimo Stilton. But his favorite subject is science.

When he was given the word “horotelic” to clinch the championship after nine rounds, Praneeth, as he did before each word, asked for the language or origin, definition and use in a sentence. After pronouncer Robin Richards proclaimed him the winner, Praneeth smiled shyly, his dimples flashing. Seconds later, his father and brother bounded down from the steps and swallowed him in hugs.

Praneeth is the youngest bee winner in recent memory.

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lodonnell@wsjournal.com 336-727-7420 @lisaodonnellWSJ

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