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Brainerd 7th-grader wins trip to Washington to compete in national spelling bee: Hannah Moddes outlasts 30 students winning regional bee

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Forestview Middle School seventh-grader Hannah Moddes pauses Tuesday, Feb. 19, before she says "cool" when Katie Embree of Sourcewell in Staples tells her she is going to Washington, D.C. Hannah competed in the regional spelling bee and won, advancing her to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee May 26-31 in Washington, D.C. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch video/gallery2 / 4
Aitkin fifth-grader Zander Peterson clasps his hands and looks at the ceiling trying to think of how to spell 'gravitas' Tuesday, Feb. 19, during the championship round against his opponent Forestview Middle School seventh-grader Hannah Moddes during the regional spelling bee in Staples. In the background is a poster of last year's champion Chloe Holoman of Royalton. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch video/gallery3 / 4
Forestview Middle School seventh-grader Hannah Moddes shrugs her shoulders Tuesday, Feb. 19, after winning the regional spelling bee at Sourcewell in Staples. Hannah now will go on to compete in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee May 26-31 in Washington, D.C. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch video/gallery4 / 4

STAPLES—Forestview Middle School seventh-grader Hannah Moddes can spell excited, exhilarated and surprised.

She used these three words to describe her feelings after winning the regional spelling bee Tuesday, Feb. 19, at Sourcewell in Staples. Sourcewell, formerly the National Joint Powers Alliance, sponsors the regional spelling bee, where students in fifth through eighth grades from Crow Wing, Morrison, Wadena, Todd and Cass counties compete for a chance to advance to the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee May 26-31 in Washington, D.C.

Hannah, 12, the daughter of Megan Korte and Daniel Moddes, both of Baxter, outlasted 30 students in the regional bee—winning the trip to Washington, D.C., to compete at nationals.

"I have never been to Washington, D.C.," Hannah said. "I wasn't expecting to go there. This is my first time competing in the regional bee.

"I was nervous (during the bee) because I didn't think I studied enough."

Hannah did indeed study enough as she correctly spelled all her words.

Before the oral spelling bee began, Katie Embree, Sourcewell event coordinator, told the 31 contestants: "In the beginning it was all about memorizing words. And in the end, in this journey it will be all about words you probably have not memorized. When your moment arrives, when you come up on stage, do it just like the pros do it in D.C. Slow down, ask questions, breathe and then you are ready to meet your challenge."

The students competing in the regional bee were among the top spellers at their individual school's spelling bee earlier this year. In the regional bee, once a student misspelled a word they were eliminated. The bee lasted eight rounds for about three hours.

One student was eliminated in Round 1, three students in Round 2, eight students in Round 3, eight students in Round 4, four students in Round 5, two students in Round 6, and three students in Round 7.

In Round 8, it was down to Hannah and Aitkin fifth-grader Zander Peterson. Zander was first and spelled "gravitas" incorrectly and Hannah spelled "magistrate" correctly. According to the spelling bee rules for the championship tie-breaker—a student has to spell one more word correct for the win. Hannah's word was "apothecary," which she correctly spelled and was declared the winner.

Hannah's words also included "gristle," "sequin," "babushka," "hyperbole," "gesundheit" and her hardest word, "precocious," which she spelled correctly.

Zander, 11, said the toughest word was obviously the one he misspelled—"gravitas," which is a noun meaning high seriousness. Zander had never heard of the word before.

"This was my first time competing in the regional bee," Zander said. "We don't have a district bee in Aitkin, we just have our elementary school bee ... Last year, I won my classroom bee but I was in Kansas so I couldn't compete."

Zander was nervous but also excited during the competition. He paused often before spelling a word and said he didn't have any strategies during the oral bee. His words included "embargo," "bower," "samurai," "mystique," "alchemy" and "glockenspiel."

"I just kind of thought for awhile and thought about how the word was spelled," Zander said. "A lot of times when I asked questions it was to give me time to think. I knew all the words, I wouldn't say I was confident but I knew I could do it. Spelling has relatively always come easy to me."

One word Zander may have to study more is his mother's last name. Zander's mother is Jennifer Hirschey and the 11-year-old said with a laugh "I always forget about the 's' in her last name."

How the students fared:

• Round 1: Eighth-grader Carter Lampert of Royalton was eliminated.

• Round 2: Eighth-grader Kiana Jarvelin of Menahga; fifth-grader Davin Willis of Pierz; and fifth-grader Allee Roberts of Sebeka were eliminated.

• Round 3: Eighth-graders Ashley Hagen and Sylvia Erwin of Little Falls; fifth-grader Cade Gravdahl of Pequot Lakes; eighth-grader Anne Lindholm of Pequot Lakes, sixth-grader Hunter Woidyla of Pillager; eighth-grader Lauren Miller of Swanville; fifth-grader Gavin Winzenburg of Pierz; and seventh-grader Michael Uselman of Verndale were eliminated.

• Round 4: Seventh-grader Jasmine Collins of Aitkin; fifth-grader Miette Hansel of Bertha-Hewitt; eighth-grader Valerie Lindner of Brainerd; seventh-grader Janna Middendorf of Little Falls; seventh-grader Brayden Rudrud of Pillager; eighth-grader Emily Holtti of Pine River-Backus; eighth-grader Andrew Aleckson of Upsala; and sixth-grader Jordin Ourkerk of Wadena Deer Creek were eliminated.

• Round 5: Eighth-graders Edith Chamberlain and Henry Hopkins of Brainerd; eighth-grader Keegan Harvey of Staples-Motley; and sixth-grader Estella Bock of Staples-Motley were eliminated.

• Round 6: Eighth-grader Parker Schott of Crosslake Community School and sixth-grader Guy Clemons-Virning of Pierz.

• Round 7: Seventh-graders Lily Kopek, Derek Grady and eighth-grader Julia Rademacher, all of Brainerd were eliminated.

The purpose of the spelling bees is to celebrate academic achievement and inspire children to show off their skills, the spelling bee program stated. Participants gain valuable experience in problem-solving and public speaking.

The program included regional spelling bee champions dating back to 2001. During that time, 12 students attended the Brainerd School District, two attended Staples-Motley School District and a student each in Royalton, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Detroit Lakes and Remer schools.

The 2003 regional spelling bee winner was Corey Hermanson, who graduated from Brainerd High School in 2007. The program stated he recently started a new job as a business data analyst at a credit company and will focus on building out the business intelligence and data visualization infrastructure.

For more photos of the Regional Spelling Bee, go to https://bit.ly/2SNE6UM.

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