The Queen Bees earned their fifth non-consecutive win at the 10th annual Adult Spelling Bee Challenge Wednesday at the Vernon Lodge in support of the Junction Literacy Centre. Pictured bottom row from left: Terry Hurst, Linda Wills, Lindy Blakely, Rosemary Jenkins, Allison Griswold; and top row: Carol Halle-Bowering, Juliette Cunningham and Karen Scott. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Queens aren’t the real winners

The Morning Star Word Nerds were within a millisecond of winning a trophy they’ve been chasing for a decade.

The final two teams in Wednesday’s 10th annual Adult Spelling Bee Challenge were going head-to-head in an intense sudden-death match. Everyone was on edge, eager to see if the Queen Bees would regain their winning reign, or if the Word Nerds would finally be triumphant – following years of coming in second and third.

Each of the two teams had made it to this final clincher after correctly spelling 15 words in the first three rounds.

“That’s pretty rare,” said beekeeper Betty Selin, who has MC’d the event since it started.

Then a tie breaker had both teams stumped on the correct spelling of mnemonics (obviously the toughest word in the challenge). So it was down to the game-changer – a word scramble.

Both teams raced to unscramble the letters and both came up with the answer almost simultaneously – jumping up to shout out their answer.

But it was the all-ladies team of Queen Bees that would take the cake.

Ironically, the word was victory.

The win gave the Queens their fifth nonconsecutive win, tying them up with the Okanagan College Eggheads, which has also won five times.

Sadly, it’s the 10th straight loss for the Word Nerds, as well as the 24 other teams. But this year’s list of familiar-yet tricky words had everyone so close to victory – and all the more reason to get primed for a win for next year.

And, like your coach (or parents) always said, it’s not about winning or losing, as long as you have fun playing the game. Judging from the costumes, smiles, laughter and energy in the room – everyone had a blast.

Plus the real winner this year, and every year, is the Junction Literacy Centre, and all the kids, teens, adults and seniors it supports. The approximately $31,100 raised through the spelling bee make programs like One to One Reading, the Teen Junction Youth Centre and Computer Literacy possible.

“This is why you are here,” executive director Wendy Aasen reminded the record 27 teams in attendance.

Along with the Spelling Bee celebrating its 10th year, the Junction Literacy Centre also marks the same anniversary. But when Bev Gess and Debbie Schiller started planning that inaugural event (an idea stolen from Vancouver) they couldn’t have predicted its success.

“We started with 15 and never thought we’d get to 20. Our dream, the ultimate was 20,” said Schiller, retired executive director and Spelling Bee enthusiast, who is now aiming to get 30 teams taking part in the event. “Now we have more than Vancouver.”

Not only has the event grown locally, but regionally.

“We have pollinated Kamloops, Salmon Arm and Penticton and today we had someone from Kelowna helping out and watching,” said Schiller of literacy groups in other communities that have taken on the spelling bee as a fundraiser as well.

While winning is nice, it’s not what brings the Queen Bees back every year.

“We came together because we believe in the cause,” said Juliette Cunningham, one of the four original team members.

In fact, the first year their team was formed, they didn’t even know each other – they had all independently signed up to take part.

But the range of women (a retired archivist, bookkeeper, a couple retired nurses, a city councillor, retired legal secretary, college instructor and retired travel agent) all have one thing in common – they are avid readers and supporters of literacy.

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