Instead, the nine-year-old son of Adam and Beverly Hughes, Greencastle, was pondering ocelots. Yes, ocelots, those frisky, leopard-like creatures from Central and South America.
For knowing how to spell the word "ocelot" allowed Hughes to outlast 24 other spellers this past Saturday to win the 28th annual Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute.
Besides earning a chance to compete for the national title, Hughes also won the right to take home a traveling trophy to be displayed at South Putnam Central Elementary for the year.
Putnam County had two of the top three spellers in the regional competition. Zack Wilkerson, a Greencastle Middle School seventh-grader who was making a return trip to the regional contest, took third place.
Runner-up in the regional was eighth-grader Robin Cummins of Terre Haute. She was also a veteran competitor who had finished third in the 2010 regional spelling bee.
Over the last nine rounds Saturday only Hughes, Cummins and Wilkerson remained standing in the spelling competition.
Beating out a pair of experienced competitors makes Hughes' accomplishment even more impressive. Organizers said it is extremely rare for a fourth-grader (let alone a nine-year-old) to win. The spelling champ is almost always a middle school student, organizers said.
The word "roodebok" ultimately ousted Cummins, while Hughes prevailed by spelling "ocelot" for the win after correctly spelling "efficacy."
Hughes was literally jumping up and down after the victory. His parents said they are "very proud of his diligence and extreme dedication in preparing for these competitions," mother Beverly told the Banner Graphic. "Go get 'em, our little 'ocelot!'"
Between now and the national spelling bee, Hughes with continue daily spelling practice with his mother before and after school.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion. Tens of thousands of schools and millions of students participate in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee program.
Nearly 300 champion spellers, ranging in age from 8- to 15-years-old, will be competing for the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship. Spellers qualify to compete in the national contest by winning locally sponsored spelling bees in their home communities.