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Sophia Brandenburg is spelling bee champ

PRINCETON – Princeton Christian Academy’s Sophia Brandenburg snagged the county’s spelling bee championship title on Wednesday, making it her second consecutive win in the annual Bureau County Spelling Bee.

Brandenburg, an eighth-grader, defeated 22 fellow contestants within four rounds of the bee, which was held at the Bureau County Metro Center in Princeton.

The runner-up was Conner Whitten, an eighth-grader from Cherry Grade School.

Round 1 of the bee eliminated nine contestants with words like “anxiety” “forensics” and “beguile.” Another 10 contestants were eliminated in Round 2 with words like “mitigate,” “pantheon,” “amateurish” and “giantess.” Round 3 took two spellers with the words “protuberant” and  “malachite,” which left  Brandenburg and Whitten standing in Round 4.

When Whitten misspelled “incandescent,” Brandenburg spelled “nuance” correctly and concluded the bee with the word “augury.”

After the win, a humble Brandenburg said she attended the bee not expecting to win or lose.

“I just came hoping I would do my best, and if I won, that would be great. And if I didn’t, somebody else would be happy to win,” she said.

Brandenburg will advance to the Journal Star Grand Final Spelling Bee on March 15.

When prepping for a bee, Brandenburg said she starts by studying a list of words until she becomes familiar with the spellings. Once she feels ready, she has mom or a friend ask her to spell the words out loud, as if she was at the bee.

“I feel like if I just look at the words and (study) them myself, I don’t get them in my head as well,” she said. “But, when I get asked them, it helps a lot better.”

PCA principal and language arts teacher Marty Kiser was all smiles after the competition as she congratulated Brandenburg. As her teacher, Kiser emphasized how proud she was to have Brandenburg as her student.

“Sophia is a really gifted speller ... She’s always been a good speller. She’s a very good reader; she reads voraciously,” she said.

Getting to show off the bee’s traveling trophy for one more year is another perk for PCA.

“We’ve gotten kind of accustomed to having it there in our school, and now we get it another whole year,” said Kiser. “It’s awesome!”

Other contestants, who were individual champions at their schools prior to attending the countywide spelling bee, included:

• Bureau Valley eighth-graders Austin Bowyer and Gailen Gibson.

• Cherry eighth-grader Jenna Lusietto.

• Dalzell eighth-grader Jeremiah Johnson and seventh-grader Hali Dodd.

• DePue eighth-grader Mackenzie Deon and seventh-grader Valerie Hernandez.

• Ladd seventh-grader Robby Wales and eighth-grader Vicki Wales.

• LaMoille eighth-grader Emily Schneider and seventh-grader Ryan Schultz.

• Malden eighth-grader Austin Henderliter and seventh-grader Aleesha Foster.

• Neponset eighth-graders Jessica Crofton and Ian Bliss.

• Ohio seventh-grader Alexia Loftus.

•  Princeton eighth-graders Doran Cotter and Eldon Hassler.

• Princeton Christian Academy eighth-grader Kimmie Glenn.

•  Spring Valley eighth-grader Allison Ploch and seventh-grader Cade Woznaik.

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