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Forestview top spellers battle it out: Seventh-grader claims title

Baxter sixth-grader Hannah Moddes slowly spells a word in the Brainerd Public Schools sixth through eighth grade oral spelling bee Wednesday while on stage in the cafetorium at Forestview Middle School in Baxter. Jennifer Stockinger / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 4
Forestview Middle School eighth-grader Emily Jaehnert rolls her eyes to the ceiling Wednesday as she thinks of how to spell a word in the Brainerd Public Schools sixth through eighth grade oral spelling bee at Forestview. Jennifer Stockinger / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 4
Forestview Middle School seventh-grader Edith Chamberlain waits for her word Wednesday in the champion tiebreaker round in the Brainerd Public Schools sixth through eighth grade oral spelling bee at Forestview. Jennifer Stockinger / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 4
Forestview Middle School eighth-grader Nicholas Backstrom spells a word Wedensday in the sixth through eighth grade spelling bee on stage in the cafetorium at Forestview in Baxter. Jennifer Stockinger / Brainerd Dispatch4 / 4

BAXTER—Thirteen-year-old Edith Chamberlain spelled all her words correctly—except her last word "corbiestep"—to give the Forestview Middle School seventh-grader the win.

The oral spelling bee brought sixth- through eighth-graders on stage Wednesday in the cafetorium at Forestview Middle School in Baxter.

Edith, the daughter of Sonya and Laurence Chamberlain of Brainerd, outlasted 14 other students in the annual spelling bee. Students competing were sixth-graders Lily Kopek, Michael Kuehn and Hannah Moddes; seventh-graders Edith Chamberlain, Max Holmstrom, Elizabeth Joque and Shella Simon; and eighth-graders Matthew Erholtz, Jack Hughes, Grace Aadland, Allison Rice, Emily Jaehnert, Mitch Neumann, Macy Speer and Nicholas Backstrom.

All 15 students competed in eight rounds and there were several tie-breaking rounds—one to name the champion of the district bee and the other to determine the top seven students who would advance to the regional spelling bee, The Lakes Bee.

The regional bee will be March 7 at the National Joint Powers Alliance in Staples. NJPA is the sponsor of the regional bee. Students in grades fourth through eighth in Crow Wing, Morrison, Wadena, Todd and Cass counties compete for a chance to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C.

Brainerd students in grades sixth through eighth are the only ones who can compete in the Brainerd Public Schools' bee. Written tests are given to all the students in sixth through eighth grade that consists of about 1,500 students. The top 15 students with the highest score qualify for the oral district bee. Then the top seven from the district bee advance to the regional bee, where then only one student will advance to nationals.

The seven students who advanced to regionals are Edith, Emily, Nicholas, Michael, Grace, Max and Elizabeth.

Edith competed in the spelling bee last year as a sixth-grader, but did not qualify for regionals. She said it provided her a good experience as she knew what to expect this year.

"I was nervous," she said. "I always am. I don't want to make a fool of myself in front of everyone or spell one of the practice words wrong as that would be embarrassing."

Edith said after the first few rounds she became less nervous and was fine.

"Some of the words were not a walk in the park," Edith said. "I almost got 'dezincify' wrong.and then I thought zinc. I do have a strategy. I picture the word in my head and look at the walls so I don't get distracted and it helps me."

Edith said coming into the spelling bee she wasn't expecting to win. And when she did she was excited. She said she plans to study a lot before regionals.

Edith said spelling has always come natural to her. She reads a lot, which also is helpful.

The competition

The spelling bee started with the 15 students competing in eight rounds with a goal to name one champion and six others who would advance to regionals.

The master of ceremonies of the spelling bee was Forestview Principal Jonathan Anderson. The pronouncer was Kathy Tusa and judges were Paula Mangan and Karen Ogdahl.

After Round 8, Edith, Emily and Nicholas were the only students who did not misspell a word—guaranteeing them a spot at the regional bee. However, they had to compete in a tie-breaker to see who the champion of the Brainerd spelling bee would be. The three middle school students went through three more rounds and Edith misspelled "corbiestep" and Emily and Nicholas misspelled two words to be eliminated as the champion. Words in the tie-breaker included "subnivean," "Jeevesian" and "diadromous."

There was still room for four more students to qualify for regionals. Michael, Lily, Grace, Max, Hannah and Elizabeth went through three more rounds. Michael and Grace spelled all their words correctly to qualify and Hannah was eliminated as she spelled three words incorrectly.

Lily, Max and Elizabeth, each spelled two words wrong and had to go into another tiebreaker round, as there still was room for two more students to qualify. The trio went through three more rounds and Max spelled two of three rounds to qualify; and Lily and Elizabeth went through six more rounds, before Elizabeth qualified for the regional bee.

"These kids are amazing," said Jennifer Rushin, Forestview spelling bee coordinator, after the spelling bee. "The words were really hard this year. When it got to Round 5, you could tell the words were much harder as the kids started to miss. These kids were so poised and to do this in front of family and friends is amazing.

"It took forever just to get to the qualifying round, just to get those bottom four out of the seven. My fear every year is that we are going to run out of words, every single year. Those kids really duked it out so it was good to get those last four."

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