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Mon., Oct. 22, 2007

Lesser spellers might opine that the winner of Spokane’s premiere spelling bee had an unfair advantage.

An undergraduate degree from Stanford University, a master’s from Harvard and a doctorate from UCLA could have given Michael Bowen an edge. But if you ask Bowen how he walked away with the trophy in the first “Spokane is Spelling” competition, he’ll tell you he studied his words.

Let that be a lesson to you, kids.

The arts editor for the Pacific Northwest Inlander left the Big Easy Concert House on Sunday night with a $1,000 gift certificate to spend at River Park Square and a night in a Hotel Lusso suite. All he had to do was spell “urceolate,” which we all know is a term that means shaped like a pitcher, to beat out fellow Inlander staff members Ann Colford and Joel Smith for the unofficial title of the city’s biggest nerd.

The Inlander folks had to duke it out among themselves for the grand prize after winning the team competition by beating the KHQ-TV team in six rounds. But first the two teams had to survive six rounds with 24 other teams.

The adult spelling bee, which raised money for the Spokane Public Library Foundation, followed a children’s bee on Saturday. Greenacres Elementary students Jessica Gallafent, Jasmin Troyer and Tucker Wilbanks won the Saturday competition, said organizer Sandra Kernerman, the foundation’s director of development. The events were sponsored by Windermere Real Estate, the Pacific Northwest Inlander, KXLY-4, ESD 101 and Sylvan Learning Centers.

The first adult team to be eliminated represented the city of Spokane, led by Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. After consultation with teammates Marlene Feist and Reagan Oliver, the team misspelled “ribald.”

“We were unanimous,” Fitzpatrick said.

Round 5 was the swan song for Maestro Eckart Preu and the Spokane Symphony Orchestra team.

“We don’t have bees in Germany,” Preu said. “I think we’re not as competitive.”

It was a tough fight between the final two teams, but the guys who buy ink by the barrel prevailed.

It took “malloseismic” to knock down KHQ, after which the Inlander team sailed through “pleuston” to win the competition.

Bowen said his strategy was to split up the 7,000 or so words made available weeks before the bee so that each teammate could study a third of them.

“But some of us didn’t hold up our end of the bargain,” said Bowen, glancing at a teammate.

Bowen ended up studying the whole list by himself.

And it showed.

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