Lakeland student heads to national spelling bee

LAKELAND, Fla. - Some of the brightest kids in the nation are just days away from battling it out for bragging rights as the United States' top speller.

A 13-year-old Lakeland middle school student is hoping to claim that title. When it comes to spelling, A.J. Manning is a W-I-Z.

The eight grade phenom is heading to Washington D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. His journey into the world of words began with a push from his third grade teacher.

"I would sit at night reading novels, and I would pick through vocabulary and unusual words," said his third grade teacher Jana Stinnett.

"While the rest of the class would be learning more basic words, she would give me words that you would see in middle school," said Manning.

After taking top honors in the regional bee, A.J. said the pressure is on to show he's the top speller in the nation. His parents say they continue to be blown away.

"I’ve learned more words now working with him than I thought I’d ever know," said his father Greg Manning.

A.J.'s teachers add that his mind extends far beyond consonants and vowels.

"I’ve kidded with him before that I was going to use his test as the test key cause he never misses a question," said history teacher Liz Smith.

It’s not just the English language A.J.'s looking to master. The language brainiac has also found he has a knack for computers. 

"HTML is a programming language that’s used to build websites, it’s the first coding language I’ve become fluent in," said A.J.

So whether its coding language or Webster’s dictionary, his teacher says there's only one wager she'd make.

"I put all my money on A.J. Everything’s on AJ," said Stinnett.

He said he just hopes all the practice spells out a W-I-N next week.

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