BAXTER - Forestview Middle School seventh-grader Connor Gunsbury sailed through eight rounds with no errors Wednesday to become the champion of the Brainerd School District Spelling Bee.
The 12-year-old - who knew all the words he was asked to spell because of all the studying he had done in the past few weeks - outlasted 16 other students in the sixth- through eighth-grade district spelling bee at the middle school.
Connor, the son of Brent and Jenny Gunsbury of Nisswa, and six other students qualified at the district bee to advance to The Lakes Bee, sponsored by the Brainerd Dispatch and the National Joint Powers Alliance, which will be Feb. 19 at Washington Educational Services Building. Students from Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties will compete in the regional bee. The regional winner will then go on to compete at nationals this May in Washington, D.C.
The six other students who advanced are eighth-graders Casey Ashman, Allison Beach, Ashlee Hauble and Laura Smith and seventh-graders Nick Tietz and Peter Wells.
Seventeen students qualified for the disstrict spelling bee after taking a written test of 50 words. The students went through eight rounds and then the champion and six runner-ups were determined.
Connor was the only student who spelled all of his words correctly and the six students all misspelled one word to advance. The remaining students spelled two or more words incorrectly.
Connor, who is no rookie to spelling bees, said he was not nervous at all during the competition. Connor competed last year during the district bee as a sixth-grader and he advanced to regionals, taking third place.
"I was feeling pretty cool," Connor said of Wednesday's bee. "It was nothing like last year's bee. All my words were easy, I knew them all.
"I was going into this competition to win it."
The eight words Connor had to spell were "gossip," "beautiful," "casserole," "pandemic," "apprentice," "burgundy," "hiatus" and "vengeance." Connor spelled all the words right away, but the word "hiatus" he stopped to ask the judges the definition and he spelled it. Afterwards, Connor said he knew the word, but he wanted to make sure it was the right word before he spelled it.
Connor said he has been studying for the spelling bee ever since the students took the written test in early January. And he plans to continue studying daily before the regional bee.
Susan Rogers, the district spelling bee coordinator, said she couldn't believe that the students didn't have to go through any tiebreaker rounds, a first for a long time. Rogers congratulated all the students for their great work and told the students, "I couldn't spell those words."
Kathy Tusa was the pronouncer; Karen Ogdahl, Leslie Hobson and Bonnie Franzen were the judges; and Janet Horn was the pronouncer. Forestview principal Donna Whalen presented the awards.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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