NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You’ve got to “bee” in it to win it.

The city’s best students went head to head Tuesday at the New York City Spelling Bee. Students weren’t just thinking about this contest, but had their eyes on an even bigger prize.

After spelling the word “reparations” correctly, seventh grader Arvind Mahankali became the 48th annual Daily News New York Spelling Bee champion, winning the contest for the third time in a row.

“If you dedicate yourself to this, then I would say that I might be a pro,” Arvind told reporters, including CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

Arvind said he got his first taste of spelling success — in his words — “a long time back in second grade,” when his teacher held a class spelling bee.

“We all competed and the most surprising thing happened — I won,” he said.

Ever since, Arvind had the spelling bee bug. He admitted it can be nerve-wracking on the stage, but his parents said it’s worse for them.

“We are very proud and very relieved…because we were a little more nervous because he has to defend the title,” said Arvind’s father, Srinivas.

Defending that title proved difficult since there were so many other great spellers to contend with.

“I feel like it was a great experience,” said Elie Levine, who finished in 4th place.

One hundred and six students from all five boroughs competed over two days.

Only two students, one per day, are crowned champions. Each gets a trophy and an iPad, but also a chance to go to the national competition in Washington D.C.

So what’s Arvind’s secret to s-u-c-c-e-s-s?

“I go through Merriam-Webster’s international dictionary,” he said.

The national spelling bee takes place on May 30 and 31. Arvind placed 3rd last year and 9th the year before that. He is hoping his third time will be the charm.

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