Spelling bees are not a game for some people, especially Liam Patton, the 2013 Southern Oregon regional spelling bee champion.
Patton is more than ready for this year's state competition on Saturday considering he's going for his second year in a row.
This year is even more intense, though, because he didn't place last year.
"Last year was beyond sad because the spelling bee is a big deal for me," he said.
Patton, 12, began his spelling-bee career last year. He will be in the seventh grade at Hedrick Middle School but will represent his alma mater, Lone Pine Elementary, where he qualified for this year's competition.
Students at Lone Pine can choose whether they want to compete in the spelling bee, Patton said.
In each class, teachers administer a 50-word spelling test, and students must spell at least 35 words correctly to qualify for the second stage where the top 10 students compete against each other.
"They choose the top three students from those 10, and they go to the district spelling bee," Patton said.
The top three spellers in the district competition represent the Medford School District in the Tri-county Spelling Bee, and the top three spellers there travel to the state competition.
Patton has taken his spelling practice to a new level this year, reading through an inch-thick list of Greek and Latin roots.
"I like to look at the roots and see what they mean," he said. "Then I can focus on the roots and what they mean in the competition. If I recognize the root, then I'll know how to spell it."
Memorizing Greek and Latin roots isn't Patton's only key to success.
"My big secret is that I read a lot," he said. "Reading is one of the best activities you can do. If you don't read, you're not going to do well in anything else."
He said his favorite books are a series known as "A Tale of Redwall" by the English author Brian Jacques and another series called "The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart.
"I read and I participate in spelling bees because it broadens my vocabulary," Patton said. "I love being able to say, 'Oh, I know how to spell that.' "
He is a little nervous about this year's competition but is confident because of his intense preparation, he said.
"My hope for this year is that I can figure out what the words are, spell them right and do my best," he said.
This year's state competition will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Oregon State Fair.