Gadsden Middle School student wins Alabama state spelling bee

Once he beat his brothers in local competition, the state spelling bee was a B-R-E-E-Z-E.

Gadsden seventh grader Joshua Kelley won the Alabama spelling championship by correctly spelling Macedonian.

His biggest rivals are also his study partners and brothers.{} Jacob is in fourth grade and John is in sixth.{} The oldest, tenth grader Justin, is no longer eligible for spelling bees now that he is in high school, but he still helps his brothers practice.

"Thanks to this guy over here," Justin said while pointing at Joshua, "I've only won county once.{} I've won school twice."

Joshua won the Etowah County bee for the second straight year and third over.{} Winning the 2014 title meant he had to get past his younger brothers.{} He failed to win in his first bee of the year when he misspelled the word follicle.

"It was a wake-up call.{} I realized that I had to be more careful about how I spell things and just never let up," Joshua said.

"I carelessly left off an E on a word that I should have known, and did know.{} That word, I'll never miss it again.{} I'll never let up and be less careful."

The youngest of the four Kelley boys, Jacob, won the Gadsden City Schools spelling bee.{} The trophy is slightly taller than he is.

"I kind of like competing against them.{} It's just kind of fun to go against your brothers in the spelling bee," Jacob said.

"After the bee you can celebrate with them about how good you did."

John took his brother to the limit in the middle school's bee.{} Joshua won with the word vagabond, after two hours of head-to-head spelling.{} The competition lasted three hours, but Joshua and John were the only contestants left after the first hour.

"Josh is a really good speller.{} He deserves it," John said.

"Once he beat me in the school bee this year, I said I'll let him take it all."

There was one more big hurdle at the Etowah County bee.{} Joshua once again found himself in a long head-to-head battle for the championship.{} He and Westbrook Christian School student Micah Blisard spelled their first nine words correctly.{} Everyone else was already out after nine rounds.

Joshua and Micah then went 70 more rounds correctly spelling words over the course of three hours.

"The county bee, it was just my day," Joshua said.

"It just shows how good of a speller Micah is.{} It could have gone either way, and there's no doubt in my mind that it would be Micah or John sitting here [doing this interview] if it had gone his way."

John and Jacob said they hope Joshua wins the national championship this year, not just for his success, but so they won't have to face him anymore as national champions are not allowed to compete again.

Oldest brother Justin said he looks forward to seeing what the younger two brothers can achieve in their remaining years of eligibility.

"I'm hoping that Josh can in turn guide the other ones," Justin said.

"He went two hours with John, and Jacob actually beat him in the city bee, so I really have no worries about their success."

The national championship is May 27-29 in Washington D.C.{} ESPN will broadcast the early rounds of bee online, with the finals on television, and Justin said he hopes his brother makes it to the late rounds so people can see Joshua's sense of humor.

He gave a good example when asked what he most wants to see in his first visit to the nation's capital:

"Mint chocolates on the hotel room pillows.{} Those are always fun."

Joshua added that he's sure the buildings are nice, too.