Today, we present the sixth of 14 parish finalists in The Gleaner's Children's Own Spelling Bee competition. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, February 2 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel at 9 a.m. and is free to the public.
Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer
Surrounded by the numerous shiny gold trophies, Hanif Brown Jr of Ardenne High School is aiming to add his name to his school's list of achievers.
Hanif is on a personal mission to take back the crown when the national finals kick off in less than a month.
In 1998, fellow Ardenne High student Jody-Anne Maxwell won the national finals then went on to make history by winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States at 12. She was the first person outside the US to win that competition.
"People always say nothing good is going to come from St Thomas," said Hanif, who is hails from the parish. "People always say St Thomas is bush, but I am proud to be in the finals."
Hanif is one of the 14 finalists in The Gleaner's Children's Own Spelling Bee Championship scheduled for The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Wednesday, February 2, and will be representing St Andrew.
No stranger to the competition, Hanif placed third in last year's finals. He said he developed an interest in spelling while in grade four at Airy Castle Primary School in St Thomas.
"My teacher, Ms Stanley, said I had the gift of spelling and she started coaching me in grade five," Hanif told The Gleaner.
The 13-year-old student said he finds training very tedious, especially when going more than over 3,000 pages of the two-volume Oxford Shorter Dictionary.
"You don't know what word the spell master will give you," he said, while noting that it's difficult to maintain discipline.
The high-school student is being trained by coach-extraordinaire, the Reverend Glen Archer, after Hanif was driven by his father to meet the man who would take him to the final this year.
"I was nervous and excited to meet Reverend Archer because he has so many champions," Hanif said. "I was thinking, 'I wonder if he will coach me'."
Often studies alone
Four days each week, Archer trains Hanif for at least two hours each day, and when he goes home he studies his words mostly by himself.
"My cousin helps me sometimes, but she's in university so she doesn't really have the time. Sometimes my relatives wonder if I'm crazy and why I'm doing so much work," he explained, while saying that he isn't daunted by lonesome study time.
Hanif said he spent his Christmas, which he described as a "critical" period, studying.
"I'm tired but I have to finish the work," he said.
The teenager said his previous experiences with Spelling Bee have assisted him in being more grounded and mature with his time-management skills. He said he is also grateful to have more resources to work with this year.
"I have an edge," he said, nodding. "I have an edge because I have experience. Last year, I didn't do much work but this year I'm learning much harder words."