Teams cast a spell for charity at contest




If television decides to stage “So You Think You Can Spell,” there are 17 Clark County residents who would love the hookup.

The Magic Spell adult spelling bee on Sunday offered some stumpers, along with a word wizard and judges in robes and witches caps. It was all for charity.

The four teams represented Friends of the Library, Clark College, American Association of University Women and Washington State University Vancouver.

Contest rules were similar to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for youngsters. A key rule: no pencil and paper.

Spellers breezed through the first 17 words before being tripped up by “vitreous.”

Word wizard Kathy Walker showed her own skill at wordplay when offering sentences.

“Her curves were bodacious, and his attention to them was audacious,” she said when introducing the word “bodacious.”

Teams conferred on words and the AAWU team called upon Kay Pankratz as their lead speller. She did not disappoint, as AAUW defeated the competition with 21 points. The library team had 20, WSUV 18 and Clark College 16.

The competition even featured a mother-son combo, although Helen Hewitt was on the AAUW team and Scott Hewitt, a Columbian reporter, was on the library squad.

There were groans and applause as teams faltered or prevailed one each word.

The Clark team correctly spelled “nystagmus,” and the crowd of about 70 broke into boisterous cheers. That word means “an involuntary rapid movement of the eyeball.” Later, the Clark team tripped up on “podagra.”

The library team correctly spelled “empyreal” but slipped up on “horripilation.”

The AAUW team was correct with “legerdemain” but could not get “bezoar.”

“Where did you get that?” Pankratz asked in mock frustration.

The WSUV team was golden on “altricial” but could not correctly spell “mountebank” (any quack or charlatan).

After more than 100 words, from “antimacassar” to “quassia” and beyond, the spellers were congratulated and sent to their dictionaries.

Nancy Stepsis of both the friends of the library and AAUW groups, said all four sponsoring organizations are dedicated to literacy.

The AAUW’s Elsie Chan said money raised will go to scholarships at Clark and WSUV and also to the library.

The spellers:

AAUW team: Kay Pankratz, Jann Bagley, Camille Wainwright, Helen Hewitt, Marilu Wilson and Bonnie Hubbard.

Friends of the library team: Julie Smith, Peggy Cannon and Scott Hewitt.

WSUV team: Dene Griger, Ellen Franklin and Andrea Damewood of The Columbian.

Clark team: Ted Broussard, Linda Calvert, Andrew Long, Becky Merritt and Tim Cook.