Vihaan Kapil won't soon forget the difference between the red fleshy bit of skin that hangs beneath a rooster's chin and the way a duck moves about.
The word attached to that first definition — wattle, not waddle — lost him the school spelling bee as a second-grader at Agamim Classical Academy in Edina. He has been studying a Google doc of difficult words, compiled by his parents, ever since.
Now, Vihaan is one of five Minnesota students competing this week in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. He's also the youngest of this year's 231 contestants, according to Scripps officials.
But Vihaan wants to make one thing clear: Even though he's listed as a 9-year-old on the organization's website, he was 8 when he won the regional competition that qualified him for the national contest.
"I just think it's really important," he said. "The regional was on March 9, and my birthday was on March 15."
The last time a Minnesotan took home the first-place spelling trophy was in 2001 when Sean Conley of Aitkin successfully spelled succedaneum. (Wondering what that means? It's a fancy word for substitute.)
Vihaan will be joined in D.C. this year by Elijah Elledge, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Immanuel Lutheran School in Mankato. His favorite subject in school is lunch because, as Elijah said, "I just like to relax."
He also enjoys playing sports video games on his Xbox. Beki Elledge, his mother, said Elijah is more of an athlete than a bookworm.
"If it's a choice between books or playing basketball, he would be outside," she said.
The Elledge family is looking forward to spending time in the nation's capital. They plan to visit the National Air and Space Museum and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"I'm looking forward to doing a lot of that stuff while we're there," Elijah said.
His favorite book is "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and he said his favorite word to spell is "onomatopoeia." Vihaan's favorite book is "D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths," and he said his favorite word to spell is "kaiser."
"I don't know why," he said. "It's German, and I just really like it."
Vihaan spent much of Friday celebrating his trip to D.C. with classmates. One of his teachers even crocheted him a pair of toy bumblebees to commemorate the occasion. His mother, Shima Kapil, said the support Vihaan has received by teachers and classmates has been inspiring.
Among the other Minnesotan contestants competing in the national spelling bee is Maximus Katsoulis. He was not available for an interview, but responded to a questionnaire and noted his favorite book is "The Island" by Natasha Preston.
He's the first person from Blackduck to reach the national championship. He even has a day named after him — May 22 is now officially "Maximus Katsoulis Day" in the city of about 850 northeast of Bemidji.
The other Minnesotans competing at the national spelling bee are Will Rausch, 12, of Staples and Roberto Villasboas, 12, of Rochester.
The contest will be broadcast on the ION network Tuesday through Thursday. The preliminaries air Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.