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Wicoff wins her second Sunflower Bee
new deh spelling bee winner web
Clara Wicoff of Iola spells her way to her second Sunflower Spelling Bee championship Saturday afternoon in the Barton Community College Fine Arts Auditorium. Previously, she won the 2009 contest. - photo by Dale Hogg/Great Bend Tribune



Allen County spelling champion Clara Wicoff correctly spelled "geriatrician" Saturday to win the Great Bend Tribune’s 2011 Sunflower Spelling Bee.

Wicoff, a seventh grader from Iola, won the spell-down in 2009, and this year she outlasted 2010 winner Matthew Wegner from Parsons and 79 other contestants. Wegner and Barton County’s Allison Regehr made it to the final nine, but by Round 7 there were only four remaining contestants: Wicoff, Zach Barrow from Wichita, Celia Hack from Fairway and Aaron Merriman from Andover.

Barrow, who eventually won first runner-up, had a chance to win the bee in Round 8, after being the only one to correctly spell his word in Round 7. But the seventh grader from St. Peter Catholic School stumbled on "diathermy," which brought all four finalists back for another round. Then it was Wicoff’s chance to wrap things up in Round 10; she nailed the word "nascency" while the others misspelled their words, but couldn’t come up with the correct letter sequence for "bouffant."

Round 11 saw Hack and Merriman drop out to share third place. Then Wicoff and Barrow battled through round 12. In round 13 he had trouble with "munificence," and Wicoff spelled "decedent" correctly, followed by the winning Round 14 word.

Stephannie Goerl, the pronouncer for the Sunflower Spelling Bee, called the contest "a great American tradition." The Scripps National Spelling Bee claims to be the nation’s largest and longest-running educational promotion, and Wicoff will now advance to that national bee in June in Washington, D.C.

Other area contestants went out in early rounds. Barton County’s Ethan Woodcock had trouble with "graffiti," Sarah Pelton from Russell County got caught on "autobahn," Greta Bauer from Pawnee County was stumped by "pangolin," Davis Conner from Rush County was fooled by "knavery," Henry Weiner from Rice County misspelled "hector," and "gordita" gave Nathanial Miller from Stafford County heartache.

"Regardless of where spellers place today, they are all accomplished spellers," Goerl told the audience. She led spellers through a practice round, and answered questions they asked during the competition.

There were a couple of light-hearted moments in the mostly cerebral contest. When Blake Fosburgh heard the definition of his word, "jackanapes," was "a pert of mischievous child," he quipped, "that’s me all right!"

Wicoff took advantage of the standard questions, often asking for a definition, country of origin for the word, or to hear it used in a sentence.

"This year was a lot more relaxed," Wicoff said after the bee. But, she admitted to having jitters in the days leading up to the competition. "I have spelling nightmares (where) I get nonsense words that aren’t real."

The Iola Middle School champion said she continues to study and learn new words, including "triforium," which she correctly spelled in Round 11. "I studied that one yesterday," she said.

Wicoff has plenty of competition at home to urge her on as well. She has three brothers; one competed with her in the Allen County Bee and placed second, and her youngest brother hopes to win next year when he enters the third grade. "He can spell," Wicoff said, "and he’s determined to win."