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Jacklyn Garcia wins spelling bee
Top speller advances to state bee
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Barton County Spelling Bee winner Jacklyn Garcia, right, and runner-up Katana Schwedes hold their trophies after the bee, Saturday at Great Bend High School. - photo by Susan Thacker

Riley Elementary School sixth grader Jacklyn Garcia won the Barton County Spelling Bee on Saturday by correctly spelling “intercom” and “awestruck.” Runner-up Katana Schwedes, an eighth grader at Great Bend Middle School, lasted for nine rounds before bowing out in the 10th round on the word “generic.”

The Great Bend Kiwanis Club has sponsored a county bee since 1981, club president Kate Wary said as the 2019 competition got underway at the Great Bend High School Auditorium.

“We know for certain the bee (in Barton County) goes back to the 1930s,” Wary said, adding the tradition may extend as far back as the 1800s.

This year, the spellers’ words were announced by Allison Regehr, a four-time winner of the local bee.

“We are so excited that Allison Regehr has decided to be our announcer this year,” Wary said. “We are pleased to have her come back to this stage again.”

Regehr graduated from GBHS in 2017 and is now attending Wichita State University, where she is majoring in french horn performance with a minor in business administration. She had some advice for Garcia when she attends the Sunflower State Spelling Bee on March 9 at Newman University in Wichita:

“Stay calm. The more nervous you are, the more likely you are to stumble over yourself. Don’t rush, and breathe — that’s a big one.”

If for any reason Garcia is unable to attend the state event, Schwedes will compete in her place.

The Sunflower Bee was previously a regional qualifying event for the Scripps National Spelling Bee and was originally hosted by the Great Bend Tribune at Barton Community College. The Tribune hosted the bee for five years until 2013, when it moved to Fort Hays State University.

Regehr said the event at Wichita will again be a statewide contest open to students from every county in Kansas. The winner of the state bee will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will take place May 26-31 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

Eighteen winners

To get to Saturday’s county bee, students had to place first or second in spelling bees at their own schools. At the end of the contest, Kiwanis members presented the students with blue or red ribbons for their success at those bees. Students from seven Great Bend schools and two Ellinwood schools competed.

While it takes good spelling skills to win a bee, there is an element of chance since spellers don’t all get the same words. Garcia and Schwedes both placed second at their school bees. The contest at Riley Elementary went longer than expected and concluded after the final bell for the school day had rung as Garcia and Riley fifth grader Rachael McReynolds competed for several rounds. GBMS seventh grader Alexandra Omenski, who won her school bee, was also a strong finisher Saturday. She lasted until round nine but was tripped up by the word “crowbar.”

Sixteen of the 18 eligible contestants attended Saturday’s bee.

Sound system

Saturday’s bee got underway at 10:30 a.m. and lasted for almost an hour. Two practice rounds were held starting at 10 a.m. After those rounds sponsors took a short break and readjusted the speakers and microphones. Some of the contestants had trouble hearing the judges during the practice rounds and as Marlene Regehr (Allison’s mom) help move a speaker she commented, “Everyone remember this when the high school needs a new sound system!”

There were two microphones set at different heights for the spellers. After round five, when the youngest spellers had all been eliminated, both mics were raised a bit higher.

The judges were Will Rains and Jay Luerman. Barb Esfeld was the recorder.

Barton County Spelling Bee participants

Winners of school spelling bees who were eligible to compete Saturday in the Barton County Spelling Bee are listed. Each school could send a winner (listed first) and runner-up.

Great Bend

Jefferson Elementary - Kaylea McMullen, 5th grade; Wyatt Michaelis, 6th grade

Riley Elementary - Rachael McReynolds, 5th grade; Jacklyn Garcia, 6th grade

Lincoln Elementary - Alex Grabast, 6th grade; Anna Bunger, 5th grade

Great Bend Middle School - Alexandra Omenski, 7th grade; Katana Schwedes, 8th grade

Park Elementary - Jasmine Figueroa, 6th grade, Hannah Caton, 4th grade

Eisenhower Elementary - Lincoln Blankenship, 4th grade; Kali Beckham, 6th grade

Central Kansas Christian Academy - Morgan MacKinney, 6th grade; Kevin Gonzalez, 8th grade


St. Joseph Catholic School - Logan Panning, 7th grade; Trace Tudor, 4th grade

Ellinwood Grade School - Reece Stickney, 4th grade; Bennett Jacobs, 4th grade