SUMMERVILLE - It took a year, but Razeen Basunia is finally Dorchester District 2's top speller.
Last year, Razeen, a Rollings Middle School of the Arts seventh-grader, made it to the final two before he was eliminated when judges said he misspelled "salve." Razeen insisted he had spelled it correctly, but after listening to a recording the judges upheld their decision.
Since then, Razeen, who went on to finish fourth in the regional Spellbound! bee, has been preparing for this year.
"I studied pretty hard," said Razeen, a son of Ayesha Zaman and Mahmudunnabi Basunia. "I want to say it was every day, but it was more like every other day."
It paid off on Wednesday.
The field of 54 fifth- through eighth-graders was pared down to Razeen and Knightsville Elementary fifth-grader Megan Dagley after eight rounds.
Razeen and Megan went back and forth spelling words correctly until Megan, a daughter of Zena and David Dagley, misspelled "opossum." That gave Razeen a chance to win, but he also missed that word.
Ten words later, when Megan stumbled over "parapet," Razeen got it right, then went on to spell "bowery" for the win.
Razeen, 11, a piano student at Rollings who skipped second and third grades, said all the words given to spellers came from the spellingbee.com website he studied.
"I knew all of them," he said, including opossum. Misspelling that, he said, "was like a mistake of the mind. I was pretty much on autopilot and had no idea what I was saying, and when I said, "o-p-p,' then I was like, well. ..."
Razeen was the 2011 Butler County (Kansas) Spelling Bee winner, but science is his favorite subject, he said. He was part of Rollings' first place science team at last year's Quest Academic Competition at Trident Technical College. He also is taking the SAT on Saturday as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program.
Razeen, Megan and seven other top District 2 spellers will now advance to Spellbound! on March 11 at Charleston Southern University's Lightsey Chapel, where the top 50 spellers in the Lowcountry will compete.
District 2 students also advancing are (in order): Ishraq Hague of Fort Dorchester Elementary; Jamal Singleton of Eagle Nest Elementary; Jason Male of DuBose Middle; Sam Hobson of Rollings; Elizabeth O'Neill of Rollings; Hailey Payne of Oakbrook Middle; and Lauren Moore of Flowertown Elementary.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.