BATON ROUGE - Spelling comes second nature for Cierra Wilson. In fact, she was in second grade when she realized her gift.
"From a very young age I liked to read so if I come across a hard word in a book I'll write it down and then later on I'll look it up, look up the definition, origin, how to pronounce it and also I have a good memory that helps with memorizing the words," Wilson said.
Cierra was just seven-years-old when she competed in her first spelling bee at school in Baton Rouge. And yes, she won.
"My winning word was mosquito," Wilson said.
Cierra has racked up a lot of wins in her years of competing, with an impressive collection of trophies, medals and certificates to prove it. She said it takes hard work, a lot of commitment and sacrifice to be the best.
"I do about 2 hours every day of spelling words and it's pretty tedious," Wilson said.
She pulls words from places you'd expect, like the dictionary and some surprising places you might not expect.
"I watch Master Chef and Grey's Anatomy," she said. She says the shows help, because they get tested on culinary and medical words too.
Cierra says her biggest challenge, has been winning a Regional. She says the competition is always tough.
"Kids from 9 different parishes in Louisiana from different schools and they all come with their best game trying to win and spell," Cierra said.
Six times Cierra has tried to take first place at the Regionals. While she's been disappointed each year, she's never given up. In fact, she was preparing for the 2017 Regionals when the great flood last August changed life the way she knew it.
"We woke up and water was about a foot high in the house, the floorboards were popping up we got some clothes on, grabbed what we could and got out.," Wilson said.
Cierra said her family is blessed in that no one lost their life during the flood. The family did lose almost everything in their home including more than 1,000 of Cierra's spelling words. She and her parents had to regroup fast in time for the competition.
"We had to remake all of those cards which made us work harder and harder to win the spelling bee," she said.
This past March, after six years of trying, one historic flood and a word she's never heard of, Cierra nailed it and won first place at the state regional spelling bee.
"I had to spell ornamentation," Wilson said. "Everybody started clapping and my mom she stood up and tears were flowing down her face."
Cierra is competing on the big stage in Washington D.C. at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday. The first place prize includes $40,000 in cash and an engraved trophy. But no matter what, Cierra says she wants her story to inspire young people who will be watching the spelling competition nation-wide.
"If you put your mind to it you can do anything you want."
To cheer on Cierra as she competes for the Scripps National Spelling Bee title, watch ESPN 3 Wednesday, May 31. The competition starts at 7 am. Cierra is number 64.
Desktop NewsClick to open Continuous News in a sidebar that updates in real-time.
Police identify woman found shot, killed inside wrecked car
Small business owner left out in the cold after thief steals snowball...
Bold theives burglarize cars and leave messages in Pointe Coupee
Holiday Helpers hand off annual Thanksgiving dinner
Body trapped under boat recovered from river