Emily Braun is going out on top.
Braun, an eighth-grader at Union Middle School, repeated as champion of The Missourian Spelling Bee.
In front of a packed house Saturday morning at East Central College, Braun correctly spelled “garrison” and “thicket” back-to-back, to defeat runner-up Georgie Bray, an eighth-grader at Immaculate Conception in Union.
“I’m really happy,” Braun said. “It feels really cool to be the first double winner.”
Braun competed in the spelling bee for all four years of its existence. This year was her last year of eligibility and she’s going out as a two-time champion.
“It’s a good way to end my last year,” Braun said.
Forty students representing schools throughout the area took to the John E. Anglin Performance Center stage for a chance to win the bee crown. By the end of the sixth round only nine spellers remained.
The nine finalists were Braun, Bray, Rhianna Heitkamp, a seventh-grader at Meramec Valley Middle School; Lydia Juenglin, an eighth-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School; Lydia Kleekamp, an eighth-grader at St. Gertrude School; Joshua Liebhart, a fifth-grader at Truman Elementary; Sarah Murphy, an eighth-grader at Lonedell R-14; Elise Thierbach, a sixth-grader at Marthasville Elementary; and Ainsley Virtudazo, a sixth-grader at St. Bridget of Kildare.
The field of nine dwindled to two after Thierbach was knocked out in round 15.
Braun, the daughter of Tim and Lisa Braun, said she did her school’s spelling bee in February and resumed studying last week.
She said her experience on the big stage helped her relax.
“Once you get down to the final 10, you kind of calm down a little bit,” she said.
Several times throughout the bee Braun got a challenging word and each time she was able to come up with the correct spelling.
“As long as I take my time, I should be OK,” Braun said. “I did study though.”
She said her toughest word was in the finals when she got “lienholder.”
Braun and Bray battled for seven rounds before Bray stumbled. Bray said she had never seen the word “garrison” before.
Despite the second-place finish, Bray was far from disappointed.
“I’ve never actually been in a spelling bee before,” she said.
Bray, the daughter of Paul and Steph Bray, said her first experience was nerve-racking, despite it not showing while up on the stage.
“I might have looked relaxed, but I was really nervous,” she said.
Bray said she prepared for the bee by using a phone app. She said she programmed the words into the phone and took spelling tests.