Pickerington's most accomplished and acclaimed speller next month will step into the bright lights of national competition for the fifth and final time.

Pickerington's most accomplished and acclaimed speller next month will step into the bright lights of national competition for the fifth and final time.

Four years ago, Lakeview Junior High School eighth-grader Nicholas Rushlow, then in fourth grade, unknowingly completed a school spelling test that would soon change his life by volumes.

Rushlow's performance on the test put him on a path to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., where in his first trip he found himself on the national stage -- literally -- and confronted by seemingly hundreds of people while trying to spell words from a 500,000-word dictionary against students up to four years older.

He placed 91st that year, out of nearly 300 students, but the experience was more to him than a high-profile completion.

Rather, it sparked a newfound love of words, and compelled Rushlow to study them during nearly every available moment.

"I've pretty much been studying every day," Rushlow said. "We figured out I've put in about 8,000 hours of studyings.

"Last summer, I spent about 600 hours spelling every word in the dictionary."

May 29, Rushlow will be back in the nation's capital for his fifth consecutive, and final, trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

He's now reached the eligibility limits in both class grade and number of times an individual can participate.

After his initial appearance in the national bee, Rushlow made it to the semifinals and finished 17th in the country as a fifth-grader, he finished 33rd as a sixth-grader and last year he once again was a semifinalist and finished 14th overall.

Because he spelled the word caffeol as c-a-f-f-i-o-l, he was excluded from the bee's finals round.

But despite the dogged study, which compels him to carry a pocket dictionary and has led to the conversion of the family dining room into a learning and memorization shrine, Rushlow isn't driven to win the bee.

Like in past years, he's simply basking in the moment and his chance to participate in an event with peers who share his appreciation for words.

"I really just love the words," Rushlow said. "I love participating in the bee.

"That's the best part of it. I really never think about winning. I just love studying the words."

In his family's dining room sits neatly organized bins filled with some 60 notebooks of words which Rushlow has been studying.

There, his "Wall of Words" is filled with sticky notes emblazoned with yet more words.

His parents quiz him regularly, and Rushlow uses "down" time, such as while he's riding to swimming practice, to reinforce his knowledge of the spelling of the words, their origins and definitions.

It's a dedication that's awed his parents.

"Of course my husband and I are really proud of how hard he's worked," said Michelle Rushlow, Nicholas' mother.

"You can tell he really does enjoy and it's fun for him," she said.

"He's put a lot of time into it. Every spare moment he's got, he's studying."

Return trips to the national bee also have earned Rushlow notoriety.

ESPN televises the latter rounds of the bee each year, and last year Rushlow was invited to visit the White House with the network's resident comedian broadcaster, Kenny Mayne.

ESPN also previously filmed a segment featuring Rushlow, his mother and then-classmates at Harmon Middle School, which can be found through a quick Internet search.

Those experiences bring the bee to life, Rushlow said, as opposed to burdening him with stress.

"I never really get nervous for the bee," he said. "It's fun and you can't really enjoy it if you're nervous.

"There's really no competition at the bee. We always say we're not up against each other, we're up against the dictionary.

"All the spellers are really friendly, and I've made friends all over the country," Rushlow said. "We text all the time."

In the spirit of fun, Rushlow named his dog, Cosmotellurian, which means "relative to heaven and Earth."

His favorite word -- out of 500,000 -- is bhutatathata (bhu-ta-ta-tha-ta), a Sanskrit word meaning the essence of suchness in Bhuddhism.

"It's just fun to say," Rushlow explains.

Heading into his final national spelling bee, Rushlow said he'll focus on enjoying all aspects of the event.

He's not setting out to place first, but rather to soak in the atmosphere and cheer on his fellow contestants.

"I'm just going to do the best I can do and that's all," he said. "You can't possibly learn 500,000 words.

"A lot of it is luck. Luck favors the prepared mind."