T-R-O-I-K-A: Spellers raise money for Literacy Center

HARLINGEN — “P-I-R-E,” the speller said.

Beverly Ticer, moderator at the spelling bee last night, said the word “pyre” had been spelled incorrectly. However, the three-person team from Sunburst Rotary was doing pretty well. They were in a dead heat to get first place against the Lions Club of Harlingen.

However, all 13 teams competing in the event at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church were winners, having raised more than $6,000 for the Literacy Center of Harlingen.

Linda Klowetter, director of the Literacy Center at 101 E Monroe Ave., was most pleased. Last year, 10 teams competed. This year more teams meant more funding for the center.

“It’s really good that we had some teams here for the first time,” she said.

The teams included Lone Star National Bank and Neighbors Emergency Center.

“I was in charge of the Asian words,” said Shane Strubhart, spokesperson for the Harlingen school district. “I was very nervous,” he said. “I am the world’s worst speller.”

Having a Ph.D. doesn’t a speller make. Dr. Kristina Stillsmoking was on the Sunburst Rotary team that ended up coming in second place.

“I never learned phonics,” Stillsmoking said. “Not having a phonetics background, in spelling I’m a little insecure.”

They ran into another road block with the word “Troika,” spelling it “Troycha.” A troika is a Russian vehicle, especially a sleigh or carriage.

Charles Kidder with the Lions Club of Harlingen stood and spelled it easily, winning the contest as his team has done three times in the past five years.

Kidder said the team changed its strategy this year.

“We assigned each other three or four sections each and that’s all we focused on,” he said, a shiny “Spelling Bee” medal hanging from his neck.

Everyone seemed to have had a good time. While some teams didn’t really study, others thoroughly explored the words they’d spell.

“We learned a lot of different words from different languages and different origins,” said Ilyana Sauceda, 14, a freshman at Harlingen School for Health Professions.

She was on the team from Neighbors Emergency Center along with Amber Warner, 13, and Jaime Ramirez, 16.

“It was a lot of fun,” Jaime said. “What I really liked about it was learning words from different countries.”