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Catawba County Schools has a new way to spell winner: K-a-m-i-n-s-k-i.
Blackburn Elementary School fourth-grader Brandon Kaminski, 9, won the system's 2010-11 district spelling bee, which was held Wednesday at Maiden High School.
Kaminski out-spelled 20 students from the county's elementary and middle schools. Every student participating in Wednesday's bee was the winner of their respective school's spelling bee.
"I just really like (spelling), because it gives me the opportunity to do something that no one else in my school has done recently," Kaminski said.
He won the bee with the championship word "unkempt" after seven rounds of competition. Lawson Barkley, a sixth-grader at Snow Creek Elementary School, was the runner-up.
Barkley misspelled "mayonnaise," forcing Kaminski to spell his next two words correctly and nab the victory.
"Mayonnaise was the hardest word I've had to spell," Barkley said.
Kaminski and Barkley received $100 and $50 savings bonds, respectively, from BB&T for out-spelling their opponents on words such as "hippopotamus, "vibrato," "pumpernickel" and "mongrel."
About half of the bee's 21 competitors misspelled a word and were out of the competition by round four. The fifth round was a tough one for spellers, and just four remained at the start of the sixth round.
The bee was originally scheduled for mid-December, but inclement weather forced the competition's postponement until after Christmas break.
"Some of you probably ended up with spelling words, rather than sugar plums, running through your head during Christmas break," CCS elementary education director Leslie Barnette told students as they prepared to start the bee Wednesday.
Spelling bee pronouncer Valerie Cody prepared an extra set of spelling words for students, in case their additional two practice weeks left them in need of more words.
For Barkley, that extra practice time paid off. He said he practiced his spelling words every other day while at home during the winter holidays.
Kaminski practiced spelling with his father, and he was glad the two spent that time together. They practiced German spelling challenge words, which Kaminski admitted were the hardest words he spelled.
Bee judges were CCS Board of Education member Charlie Wyant, CCS AIG coordinator Jo-Nell Isenhour and retired CCS career development coordinator Phyllis Biggerstaff.
Each student stood before the judges and pronouncer and were given a spelling word. Students could ask for the word's origin and/or definition. Once they started spelling, they weren't allowed to change a letter if they made a spelling mistake.
"You are all winners," Cody told the students at the bee's conclusion.
"My stomach is in a knot. If you think you were nervous, we were right there with you."
Every student in the district bee received a T-shirt and an electronic spelling device in recognition for their spelling victories.
As Kaminski was bombarded with gifts, requests for photographs and kind words of congratulations, he made sure to commend students for their hard work in preparing for the competition.
"All of the kids did a great job," Kaminski said.
Other spellers in the bee include: Maximilian Dresden, of Arndt Middle School; Karleigh Wallace, of Balls Creek Elementary School; Jordan Amedio, of Banoak Elementary School; Presley Poovey, of Catawba Elementary School; Dawson Hicks, of Claremont Elementary School; Madison Schultz, of Clyde Campbell Elementary School; Alexis Pennington, of Jacobs Fork MIddle School; Nathan Ozier, of Lyle Creek Elementary School; Meagan Rufty, of Maiden Elementary School; Lauren Hodges, of Maiden Middle School; Zach Fenley, of Mill Creek Middle School; Parker Rawson, of Mountain View MIddle School; Destiny Ussery, of Webb A. Murray Elementary School; Jarrett Dobbins, of Oxford Elementary School; Jenny Moerk, of River Bend MIddle School; Maddison Hardwick, of Sherrills Ford Elementary School; Alina Benjenari, of St. Stephens Elementary School; Kylie Morgan, of Startown Elementary School; and Easton Finger, of Tuttle Elementary School.