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Tribune's Sunflower Spelling Bee is set for Saturday
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Friday's issue of the Great Bend Tribune includes the official program of the 2012 Sunflower Spelling Bee, which takes place Saturday at the Barton Community College Fine Arts Auditorium.

This program includes photos of 86 contestants — the champions of 75 Kansas counties. Only one will advance to the week-long Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May, Tribune Publisher Mary Hoisington said. "We serve as the state spelling bee for three-fourths of Kansas."

Spellers will check in Saturday morning for a practice round, but the actual bee starts at 1 p.m. The public is invited to watch; admission is free.

This is the fifth year for the Tribune to host this academic competition. One contestant, Iola eighth grader Clara Wicoff, is returning for her fifth and final time to the Sunflower Spelling Bee. (Students are eligible through the eighth grade.) Wicoff made it to second-runner up her first time at the event, and has won the bee twice.

But Wicoff won’t be the only experienced speller standing on stage as Barton Community College instructor Dana Weber pronounces words. Barton County’s Allison Regehr, a seventh grader from Great Bend Middle School, will compete for the third time. Last year Regehr showed improvement over her first year, making it to the fifth round. Barton County’s other champion is Emily Woodcock, a seventh grader from Hoisington.

Each county in the Sunflower Spelling Bee service area is allowed to send one champion for even 10 schools it has registered in the national bee, Hoisington said. Johnson County is sending eight champions.

Another area speller coming back for the second time is Sarah Pelton, a seventh grader from Paradise.

Other spellers here for the third time are Joshua Becker, an eighth grader from Scott City and Austin Patton, an eighth grader from St. Francis.  Gina Mathew, a sixth grader from Pittsburg, is competing for her second year, but last year Gina shared the stage with her older brother Joseph, who attended for his third and final time in 2011.

This year’s judges are Deb Kohn, Ruthann Harris, and the 1968 National Spelling Bee Champion Robert Walters. More information about the pronouncer and judges is included in the program, which also contains information about the prizes, rules of participation and spelling bee etiquette.