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Another win for the Gunsbury spellers

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It seems like there might be something in the water at the Gunsbury home in Nisswa.

Eighth-grader Claire Gunsbury outspelled 15 other students to win the Brainerd district spelling bee Wednesday at Forestview Middle School.

Gunsbury is not the first in her family to show her spelling prowess — her brother Connor won the district bee two years in a row and placed 19th in the National Bee in 2011.

Claire Gunsbury’s winning word — “brachiosaur.”

Gunsbury and her 15 cohorts spelled for eight rounds of stiff competition where seven of them were ultimately eliminated.

Sentences read to the students using the given word included several pop culture references including Justin Bieber, “The Hunger Games,” and Taylor Swift who was mentioned in the sentence used for the word marionette.

Five students misspelled one word in the first eight rounds of competition and moved onto additional rounds to compete to qualify for the regional spelling bee to be held Mar. 20. Seventh-grader Lauren Benson beat out eighth-grader Taylor Budnick in 17 rounds of tie-breaking words. Benson’s final word “crocodilian” gave her the edge needed over Budnick’s “effervesce” in the pair’s sudden death round.

Spelling Bee Coordinator Susan Rogers said this was the first year since she has coordinated the event that they have ever gone to sudden death round. “This is new to me,” Rogers said.

Gunsbury competed against seventh-graders Maison Jobe and Lauren Crabtree and eighth-grader Adam Kleist for the championship. All four students made it through the first eight rounds of competition without a single misspelling. Kleist was the 2012 District Bee champion. The word that stumped Kleist in this year’s competition was “fossorial.”

There was a tense moment after Gunsbury spelled the word “brachiosaur” and judges initially told her she had spelled the word incorrectly.

“I was a little nervous,” Gunsbury said later.

Judges played back the recording of Gunsbury’s spelling to discover she had in fact spelled the word correctly, making her the clear winner with zero misspellings.

Gunsbury said while she was excited to have won, there were a few words that were difficult, but it was “brachiosaur” that gave her to most trouble.

Gunsbury’s moment of victory was appropriately celebrated with a big hug from brother Connor who is now a sophomore at Brainerd High School.

Gunsbury’s father, Brent Gunsbury, said he and his wife, Jenny, are proud of their daughter’s success and the fact that both of their children had won the District Bee. “It’s impressive,” he said. “They live to do well in their academics and they both love to read.”

Brent said what impressed him most is Claire’s ability to stay poised during the competition.

“She’s unflappable,” he said mentioning Claire has the same level of focus when playing sports. “She’s very smart. She reads a lot. I’m sure that helped.”

Claire Gunsbury said she is looking forward to the next round of competition and hopes to be successful in the district bee and move on to the national competition.

“I think that it would be cool to go to (Washington) D.C. again,” she said.

Gunsbury attended the National Bee with Connor in 2011.

Spelling Bee coordinator, Susan Rogers announced Wednesday that this year’s District Bee would be her last. Rogers retires next week. “It’s bittersweet of course,” she told students and parents in attendance at Wednesday’s competition. “I’ve really enjoyed this part of my job.”

Forestview Middle School Principal John Anderson echoed Rogers’ sentiments crediting her with years of investment in the Spelling Bee program. “The success it has had has been due to (Susan’s) hard work,” Anderson said. Rogers has coordinated the spelling bee since January 2000.

Runners-up who qualified to compete in the Regional Bee include eighth-graders Matt Greatens, Adam Kleist and Emily DeChaine; and seventh-graders Lauren Benson, Lauren Crabtree, and Maison Jobe.

All seven students compete in The Lakes Bee regional competition on Mar. 20 at Tornstrom Auditorium. The winner of the regional Bee will go on to compete in the National Bee in Washington D.C.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.