Archive for Saturday, October 13, 2007

Retired English teacher, 68, wins first Kansas Senior Spelling Bee

October 13, 2007

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— A 68-year-old retired English teacher has won the first Kansas Senior Spelling Bee after correctly spelling writhe.

After stumbling through the word serendipitous, Jane Vajnar was the only contestant left Thursday and needed to spell one word to beat out 47 other senior spellers from 27 Kansas cities.

After spelling writhe, Vajnar was presented with a plaque and an all-expense paid trip to Cheyenne, Wyo., to compete in the National Senior Citizens Spelling Bee in June 2008.

"I'm excited," Vajnar said. "I've never been to Wyoming."

Retired elementary school teacher Delphine Holston of Abilene took second in the statewide event developed from a spelling bee created 10 years ago at Salina's Holiday Resort Adult Care.

The entrants were given a written test of 50 words read out load. After those were graded, 17 finalists were selected to compete in the oral part of the competition.

Each finalist was required to spell a word aloud after it was spoken and a definition was given. After several rounds, the number of finalists rapidly thinned, courtesy of words such as cummerbund, limousine and amaryllis.

Third-place finisher Lawrence Wetter, of Salina, a retired engineer, was tripped up on the word "boutonniere."

Vajnar said she hadn't participated in a spelling bee since her days of being a multiple blue-ribbon spelling champion in grade school.

"I wanted to do this to see if I still had it in me," she said.

The bee was judged by former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, retired KU broadcaster Max Falkenstien and Rep. Josh Svaty, D-Ellsworth.

Baker said she's glad she was asked to be a judge.

"I'd rather be on this side of the table," she said.

Svaty said he learned more than just words at the event.

"I learned a lot from (Kassebaum Baker) just whispering to her at the table for 20 minutes," Svaty said.

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