It took more than 20 rounds for Blake Buckles, a fifth-grader at O’Loughlin Elementary School, to earn the title of champion speller at the 2016 Ellis County Spelling Bee on Thursday evening.

Elijah McCullough, a fourth-grader at Wilson Elementary School, was the second-place winner.

By the fifth round, the contest was down to three competitors, Buckles, McCullough and Clay Shaw, a seventh-grade student at Ellis Junior High School. The three spellers went through more than half a dozen rounds before Shaw sat down.

It took about seven more rounds before Buckles won by spelling the word “delicate.”

Buckles admitted to being nervous until the championship word. He was confident he knew how to spell it.

His mom, Heather Harris, also was a bit nervous watching from the audience.

“He was in the spelling bee last year, and so I think that had prepared him most for today, and then he had worked on some words for a couple of days,” Harris said.

“I was really nervous. I was hoping he’d get through a couple rounds, but to get that far, I’m really proud of him,” said Jason McCullough, Elijah’s father.

McCullough said he wasn’t nervous until it came down to the last rounds.

O’Loughlin Principal Shannon Demel was on hand to congratulate Buckles and take possession of the traveling trophy which will find a home at O’Loughlin until next year’s spelling bee.

Tom Meagher, Wilson principal, also was all smiles as he congratulated McCullough.

All of the participants at this year’s event, the 60th annual Ellis County Spelling Bee, received certificates.

The judges were Jeanie Michaelis, Marla Staab, and Dr. Carol Ellis. Brenda Meder was the pronouncer.

The spelling bee is organized by the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Buckles will compete in the 2016 Sunflower Spelling Bee March 5 in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center at FHSU.