Pamela Still has always been good at spelling.

'There was a time when that mattered,' she said, 'along with having good penmanship.'

Being a good speller evidently still matters, as evidenced by the Senior Spelling Bee held April 14 at Mary's Woods. Thirteen seniors entered the competition, hoping to be named Oregon's top senior speller and earn the right to represent the state at the National Senior Spelling Bee in Montana later this summer.

'I hadn't been in a spelling bee since grade school,' Still said. 'I entered solely for the fun of it. And my only concern was that I not be the first guy to go out!'

The competition began with the contestants taking written spelling tests, just like in grade school. The lists included words such as umlaut, ytterbium, oxytetracycline, xebec, gymkhana, Liebfraumilch and bouillabaisse.

'We had to go through three rounds of 25 words,' Still said. 'Those were hard enough, but the oral words were really hard.'

The list of words for the oral competition is carefully guarded to avoid any senior getting an advantage over another.

Still said she did nothing to prepare for the bee but is blessed with a good vocabulary and has always enjoyed words. In fact, years ago her husband, Ken Still, dubbed her the "Word Queen."

Still won third place in a sudden-death challenge by correctly spelling the word "hartebeest." The fourth-place contender misspelled the word "wrasse."

'It's probably the first time in my life and possibly the last time that I got the last word!' Still quipped.

First-place winner was Kim Worral of Rainier, Ore.; second-place winner was Susann Ragsdale of Hillsboro.

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