he third-grader at Greenwood Christian Academy blew through “avenue,” “thief” and “magical.”

Zachary Haynes got through 18 rounds by spelling words such as “harpist” and “unfinished.”

The word “vibrant” is what earned him championship status.

Haynes saw the word five or six times in his six weeks of preparing for the annual Johnson County Spelling Bee. His studying paid off when he was named champion Tuesday night.

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He was one of 21 top spellers from Johnson County schools who competed to be champion.

Participants were third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who won spelling bees at their schools. The spelling bee was co-sponsored by the Daily Journal and the Franklin Community Teachers Association.

As a third-grader, Haynes was one of the youngest competitors in the spelling bee.

He knew it would take hard work to compete and be successful, he said.

“I was very excited. I worked so hard,” he said. He is the son of Paul and Tami Haynes.

His journey to become a champion was not without stumbles. He paused at “harpist” to run through the spelling a few times in his head, he said.

Maya Alvey, a fourth-grader at Webb Elementary School and the runner-up, misspelled “feminine.” But so did Haynes.

Alvey then misspelled “immune.” Haynes zipped through “immune” and went on to “vibrant” to clench the champion title.

Throughout the spelling bee, he had to watch 19 contestants spell before him, as he was contestant No. 20. He liked the extra time and that he was near the last. One of his ambitions was not to be one of the first people eliminated, he said.

“I was kind of happy that I was near the last of the people,” he said.

When it was his turn to spell, he just spelled what he had studied and hoped for the best, he said.

“I was really nervous, but I just hoped I got it,” Haynes said.

But he persevered and describes spelling as a natural talent he has.

“It’s probably just a gift from God,” he said.

Haynes works to cultivate his gift.

He gave up his free time since the third week of March to study at least one page a day when he was preparing for both the school and the Johnson County Spelling Bee.

His strong performance in spelling class is why he wanted to give spelling at the school and county bee a shot, he said.

“I got good grades in spelling, so I thought I would try it,” he said.