Retired Local School Teacher Turns 100

Courtesy of Eskaton Village, Carmichael  |  2017-03-23
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Active centenarian Clea Meyers was surrounded by friends, families and well-wishers as she celebrated the amazing accomplishment of reaching her 100th birthday. --Photo courtesy of Eskaton Village, Carmichael.

Clea Meyers, a retired Rancho Cordova teacher, reached a major milestone with her 100th birthday in March. She’s having lots of parties with well-wishers.; Meyers can be seen walking around Eskaton Village in Carmichael, where she lives. With her pedometer clipped on, Meyers participates in the Eskaton Step It Up walking program, logging an impressive 7,000 steps per day – which she has no problem achieving.

According to Meyers, good food, good exercise and attitude are the secrets to living a long and healthy life. She explained, “It’s about having a positive attitude and caring for others.” During her nearly 100 years on earth, she has practiced what she preaches. About 15 years ago, she began knitting hats for children in the hospital.

The mother of two, grandmother of five, and great-grandma to nine, grew up in Nebraska. She met her husband there, they were both in education. In 1959, after visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Sacramento, the couple decided to move out west. “It was so nice to get out of the snow and ice,” she said. “And the teacher salaries we so much better in California.”

Meyers spent 20 years teaching second grade at Peter Shields Elementary in Rancho Cordova. She loved teaching. The greatest part for her was working with the students, she said, “Opening their eyes to the world and seeing them grasp and grow into adults.”

Meyers is proud to be a resident at Eskaton Village, Carmichael where she has lived since 1997. “Absolutely the best place one can live,” she exclaimed. “The food is so good."


Proud Pilot Still Flying High

Story and Photos by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-23

Gail Spelis and her father, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert J. McMurry, have co-authored a memoir chronicling his life as a WWII pilot. 
--Photo by Jacqueline Fox

Local WWII Pilot Co-Authors Memoir with His Daughter

Picture putting a paper bag over your head and trying to land a C-124, four-engine cargo plane in Iceland, in the middle of winter, with two engines down.

“It’s called ‘zero-zero visibility,’ said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert J. McMurry, 96, who actually pulled off that landing and many other nail-biting missions during his 24-year career as an enlisted aviator.

McMurry and his daughter, Gail Spelis have co-authored his memoir, Proud Pilot: A True Story of Family, Wartime and Survival Against the Odds, which traverses his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska, the middle and teenage years in the Bay Area, the events that led to in his enlistment and all things in between. Several chapters are devoted to the many white-knuckle experiences McMurry endured while serving in the air force, including that 1956 mission to an Icelandic refueling station, which he calls “the most harrowing of all.”

Seven years in the making, Spelis says the decision to help co-author her father’s memoir was divinely inspired, but as is the case with many of the close-call stories in the book, its fruition also had a lot to do with timing.

“I had heard my dad tell stories all my life about being a service pilot and I’d always wanted to write this book,” Spelis said. When the economy soured in 2008, her family real estate company took a heavy blow, which put her at a personal crossroads. “The recession came along and I did not know which direction to turn. I was at my desk, praying for guidance and I asked God to show me what he wanted me to do next.”

The creative spirit, says Spelis, came to her almost immediately, however, she began writing a very different book. “It was flowing out of me faster than I could keep up with,” she said. A short time later, as her father was recounting stories during a family reunion, it hit her: “dad’s memoir” was the book she needed to be working on.

“I knew that was it,” said Spelis. “I had my direction and I wanted to honor dad by writing this book to help give his life meaning and purpose,” Spelis said.

More than 50 years had lapsed between the military and the memoir, published in 2015. McMurry was 87 when they began the writing. Between the air force and civilian pilot employment, he clocked some 33,000 hours in the air. He’d survived cancer and other illnesses, and experienced the death of his wife, Jeanne in 2012 after 69 years of marriage.

But memory had a will, and through it all McMurry’s memory had a mission of its own. He is, after all, a member Mensa and, to keep his mind sharp, he works the crossword puzzle every morning. In ink.

“There’s nothing wrong with his memory,” said Spelis, who says she wrote as her father dictated. “I’d ask dad to start in and remember the next thing, and he’d just sit back, close his eyes, put his fingers on his forehead and he’d go right there.”

As a young man, McMurry wanted to be a professional trumpet player. In high school he had his own band, which even backed up a fledgling entertainer and former Burlingame High School alum, singer, TV personality and media mogul, Merv Griffin. “I was never really great at it,” recalls McMurry. “It was frustrating. All artists want to be great at what they do.”

Then, World War II broke out and, as an enlisted member of the National Guard, McMurry was called to active duty on March 3, 1941. Two months in, he found the hours of pulling army caissons and cannons over unforgiving terrain on horseback and sleeping on the ground nothing short of miserable. When a notice was posted announcing pilot training exams, McMurry jumped at the opportunity. He was the only member of his company to pass.

“World War II changed everything for me,” McMurry said.

Spelis said the core of the book was “on paper” in about six months, however, the collection of photos, editing and other finishing touches took seven years. Her passion for her father’s work and their unshakable bond, they both agree, made this “labor of love” a reality.”

“I could not be more proud of Gail, and I enjoyed the whole process,” said McMurry. “We worked for hours every day. We would get tired, and sometimes we’d even forget to eat.”

Proud Pilot, a True Store of Family, Wartime and survival against the Odds, is available online at: www.gailspelisauthor.com/product-page/book


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The Big Pot Fight

By Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-23

On Monday, March 27, the County Planning Commission will be finalizing recommendations for zoning changes that, if adopted by the full board of supervisors at its April 11 meeting, will officially ban all commercial sales of marijuana in the county, effectively criminalizing the establishment of so-called pot dispensaries, as well as pot sales through delivery services, commercial growing, and other means.

County, Law Enforcement Take Steps to Prepare for Prop. 64’s Impact

The Sacramento County Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, city officials and the region’s top law enforcement representative are beginning to plant the seeds for both complying with and addressing potential impacts from the legalization of marijuana under the passage of Proposition 64 in November.

On Monday, March 27, the County Planning Commission will be finalizing recommendations for zoning changes that, if adopted by the full board of supervisors at its April 11 meeting, will officially ban all commercial sales of marijuana in the county, effectively criminalizing the establishment of so-called pot dispensaries, as well as pot sales through delivery services, commercial growing, and other means. It’s a bolstering of laws already in place, but necessary for the county as other changes under the law take effect.

In addition, the full board of supervisors will be discussing cleanup language for existing zoning laws now governing medicinal marijuana use and cultivation in private residences in order to bring county codes into compliance with laws now permitting the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

With its passage, the law makes it legal for all adults 21 and over to now grow up to nine pot plans inside a private residence or accessory unit, such as a small green house. The county previously amended zoning laws to allow for the personal use and cultivation of medicinal marijuana, however existing “permissive zoning” code on recreational pot use and cultivation still prohibits it.

“We’ll be taking up the zone amendment and talking about clean up language in order to come into compliance with the new law and take measures to deal with commercial marijuana use and growing,” said County Supervisor Sue Frost.

The AUMA puts the state of California in charge of governing the licensing process for commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana and it has until January 1, 2018 to accept applications for that process. The state, however, is leaving it up to the local municipalities to adopt and enforce local ordinances aimed at either regulating or, if they chose to, as Sacramento has, prohibit all commercial marijuana sales “activities.”

Once zoning code amendments are in place, the county supervisors will also likely have to contend with the thorny issue of compliance with the new law and enforcement of violations and related crime as they may or may not come into conflict with laws set by the federal government, which still classifies marijuana as an illegal Class 1 controlled substance.

“I can only speak for myself, but we may be having conversations at some point about crime and other issues, and I want to proceed very carefully because we do not jeopardize the funding we get for several programs from the federal government,” Frost said. “Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance and is still illegal as far as the federal government is concerned.”

That said, Frost added she has also begun talking with local law enforcement about the likely future impact on local crime and other issues by the legalization of commercial marijuana sales in other counties.

“It’s bound to spill over,” said Frost. “But, I’m from Citrus Heights, and here we weigh out all of our options very carefully before we make any decisions. That same principal will apply here as far as I’m concerned. I can’t speak for the entire board, but that’s my approach.”

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said she has already made it clear she sees a through line between the passage of Prop. 64 and Prop. 57, which allowed for the early release of some convicted felons on incarcerated for what are considered “lesser crimes,” many drug- and alcohol-related, and the potential myriad problems to come with the new laws on pot use in the state.

“I’m planning to be there at the meeting on the 11th to make sure the board of supervisors understands all of our concerns about what this passage means with respect to crime,” said Schubert. “What this law effectively does is not only makes it a misdemeanor for having just a little over the limit, but it’s still just a flat misdemeanor even if you are caught growing mass quantities over the limit.”

In addition, said Schubert, there are the potential side-effects impacting community services and its residents, including a likely uptick in the number of DUIs on marijuana, underage use of marijuana, emergency room visits, car accidents, and spikes in crime.

“I am concerned about crime going up, I’m concerned about hospital visits going up due to accidents, the number of DUI offences under the influence of marijuana going up, and all the things that relate to that,” Schubert said. “Now, we are going to comply with the laws are they are written, but we also want to figure out how we are going to effectively plan for these other issues going forward.”


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Library Recognized as Finalists

Sacramento County  |  2017-03-22

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has announced that Sacramento Public Library is among the 30 finalists for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. For 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service and are making a difference for individuals, families and communities.

“The 2017 National Medal Finalists represent the leading museums and libraries that serve as catalysts for change in their communities,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “It is our honor to recognize 30 notable institutions for their commitment to providing programs and services that improve the lives of individuals, families and communities. We salute them and their valuable work in providing educational opportunities to their community and celebrate the power libraries and museums can have across the country.”

Finalists are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. IMLS is encouraging community members who visited Sacramento Public Library to share their story on the IMLS Facebook page. To Share Your Story and learn more about how these institutions make an impact, please visit www.facebook.com/USIMLS.

The National Medal winners will be announced later this spring. The representatives from winning institutions will travel to Washington, D.C. to be honored at the National Medal award ceremony.

To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit www.imls.gov/2017-medals.

Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services.


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Get With the Flow

By Sacramento Suburban Water District Staff  |  2017-03-22

WaterSense-labeled sink faucets and accessories use a maximum of 1.5 gallons of water per minute and do it without sacrificing performance.

Did you know that by replacing your old, inefficient faucets and aerators with WaterSense-labeled models you can conserve water and lower your energy bill? It’s a win every time you turn on the tap.

WaterSense is a partnership program created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect the future of our country’s water supply by providing consumers with an easy way to identify water-efficient products, new homes and services.

The WaterSense label is applied to those products, which have been independently certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient than average products, and to offer the same or better performance.

WaterSense-labeled sink faucets and accessories use a maximum of 1.5 gallons of water per minute and do it without sacrificing performance. And because they use less water, less heat is needed, reducing your energy bill.

Replacing older inefficient faucets and aerators can save the average family 700 gallons of water per year. If every home in the United States installed WaterSense-labeled models, we could save $1.2 billion in water and energy costs and 64 billion gallons of water annually!

The WaterSense label can also be found on:

  • New Homes
  • Showerheads
  • Urinals
  • Toilets Rebates are now available from SSWD!
  • Weather-Based Sprinkler Controllers Rebates are available.

Make a difference every time you turn on the faucet by installing WaterSense-labeled faucets and aerators. And remember to turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving.

SSWD even has free WaterSense-labeled aerators available at the office! Pick one up today; twist it into place and start using water wisely.


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Sanctuary State Puts Californians in Harm’s Way

From the Office of Senator Jim Nielsen  |  2017-03-22

Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama)

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Along partisan lines, Senate Democrats passed two legislative proposals that would make California a safe haven for convicted felons who are in the country illegally and provide free legal service for them.
Former chairman of California’s state parole board, Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), and sheriffs across the state denounced the Democrat-controlled legislature’s actions.
“How many more lives have to be harmed before Sacramento politicians wake up and realize these policies are dangerous for our communities?” said Senator Nielsen. Nielsen represents the families of two sheriff’s deputies killed in the line of duty by a convicted criminal who was deported twice for committing several crimes, for membership in a drug cartel, and for entering the country illegally. “This is not about immigration; this is about enabling criminal behavior and activity that endangers our citizens.” 
The California State Sheriffs’ Association stated in their letter to the author, “This bill creates a severe public safety problem.”
Specifically, Senate Bill 54 (De León), is a legislative proposal that would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, school police and security departments from sharing information about criminals with federal officials.
The second measure Senate Bill 6 (Hueso) would provide free legal services to arrested individuals. SB 6 takes general fund monies from programs like scholarships for college students to give to organizations to defend criminals.
“California leaders must protect the safety of our citizens from convicted felons who are here illegally – not hire lawyers for them,” said Senator Nielsen.
To contact Senator Nielsen, please call him at 916.651.4004, or via email at senator.nielsen@senate.ca.gov.


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Honoring A Special Lady During Women’s History Month

By Sheila LaPolla   |  2017-03-22

Centenarian, Lieutenant Lynn Balmer. Photo Courtesy: Brenda Sheriff, President American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, CA.

Women’s History Month celebrates the vital role of women in American history. The vibrancy and legacy of women past and present unifies and nourishes our collective whole as we march onward towards fundamental human equality.

Lieutenant Lynn Balmer, born September 12, 1907, on the family homestead in Plumas, California, has seen history unfold before her eyes and is creating a bit of history herself. At 109 years old, Lt. Balmer is the oldest living female veteran in the United States. She is the second oldest veteran in the United States (Corporal Richard Overton of Austin, Texas is the oldest veteran at 110 years old).

After WWII started, Lynn Balmer joined the military, “to free a man for active duty.” She served in the U.S. Coast Guard and achieved the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) LTJG. Lt. Balmer secured a top-secret clearance and worked in Military Intelligence. Using her keen mathematical abilities, she read and interpreted weather maps and charts and used morse code to help ships navigate through dangerous waters and adverse weather conditions between the United States and England.

Prior to her military service, Lt. Balmer was an elementary school teacher, teaching her first class in 1927. She later taught mathematics to high school students. In 1943, her passion for teaching and love for her students, (having no children, she treated each and every child as her own) gave way to her patriotism and love of country when she enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard.

Yes, Lt. Balmer entered two noble professions and gave of her immense talents whole heartedly.

Between the years of 1946 and 1967 she attended the University of Washington part time, taught mathematics to junior high school students, volunteered at a children’s orthopedic hospital, and was a professional skater to boot! She retired and moved to Chico, California, in the late 1990s with her husband, Charles (now deceased). At 109 years old, she presently lives comfortably in an assisted living facility in Chico, adored by her loving family.

Lynn Balmer’s passion for life lives on. She tells stories about living through World War 1, living through the nationwide flu epidemic in 1918 by wearing bags of asafetida around her neck to school, living through the Great Depression, and when there were shortages of grain and sugar, feeling very lucky that her father had bees so their family of nine children had honey.

The Women’s Suffrage movement was going strong in her childhood and when Lynn was 18 years old, she remembers that her mother got to vote for the first time in her life during the 1920 election. When Lynn became of legal age, she, too, proudly exercised her right to vote and encourages all women, young and old, to exercise their hard-earned right to vote.

Lt. Balmer’s deep love of country and patriotism still flourishes. As a veteran, she is a member of our nation’s largest veterans service organization, the American Legion. She is a lifetime member of American Legion Post 709, Rancho Cordova, where her nephew, Sgt. Ken Hicks, U.S. Air force veteran, is Historian. On her 108th birthday, she was recognized by American Legion Post 709 as the oldest living female member of the American Legion. (See photograph.)

She is also a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, California, where her Great-niece, Brenda Hicks Sheriff is President, and Virginia Hicks (Sgt. Hick’s wife and Brenda’s mother) is Treasurer.

On September 12, 2017, Lt. Lynn Balmer will celebrate her 110th birthday. She did not, and does not, let life pass her by. She still has richness of character, strength, gentleness, and her pioneer spirit.

During Women’s History Month, it is only fitting we pay special tribute to Lt. Balmer during her golden years and reflect upon and celebrate the lives of famous women pioneers and leaders in our history, as well as celebrate the unsung woman heroes of our daily lives.

Source: Sheila LaPolla Historian, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 383, Fair Oaks, CA


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River Cats Take on San Jose Giants at Raley Field

Source: Sacramento River Cats  |  2017-03-22

The Sacramento River Cats are excited to announce a cross-level scrimmage against the San Jose Giants, the class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The two teams will go head-to-head in a scrimmage at Raley Field on Wednesday, April 5, just one day before Sacramento’s Opening Day. Tickets for the game start at just $5 and are available now at www.rivercats.com.

This pre-season scrimmage is an extension of Spring Training and is likely to feature many of San Francisco’s top prospects. Christian Arroyo and Tyler Beede – the system’s top two prospects – are expected to take the field for the River Cats while 2016 first-round pick Bryan Reynolds (No. 4 prospect) may start for the San Jose squad.  Other prospects likely to be involved in the game include Joan Gregorio (No. 7), Jalen Miller (No. 15), Heath Quinn (No. 17), and Sacramento fan-favorite Austin Slater (No. 22).

First pitch on Wednesday, April 5 at Raley Field is set for 6:05 pm. Gates for the game will open at 5:00 pm with parking lots to open at 4:30 pm. Parking will be $5.

General admission tickets start at just $5. There will be a $10 ticket option which includes a general admission ticket, a hot dog, chips, and a soda. Tickets can be purchased online at www.rivercats.com.

All River Cats season ticket members will have tickets to the exhibition game included with their plan. For more information please email tickets@rivercats.com or call (916) 376-HITS (4487).


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Diamond in the Rough

Stories and Photo by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-16

Doug Ose, manager of Gibson Ranch County Park is pushing for a long-term renewal of his contract to manage the 325-acre park.

The County board of supervisors is preparing to weigh the options presented by developer Doug Ose to frame a renewed contract for his continued private-level management of Gibson Ranch County Park.

On Monday, Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost toured Gibson Ranch for the first time since Ose assumed management of the 325-acre nature reserve and events center in 2011. Due to steep financial losses, the county was on the brink of closing the park. After her tour, Frost said she supports a fast-track to renewing a contract with Ose before his current agreement expires April 30th.  From her perspective, no one wants to see Gibson Ranch close.

“It’s a beautiful space and we want to do everything we can to continue to let the community have access to this wonderful space,” Frost said. She stopped short of discussing specifics in either Ose’s proposal or those the Sacramento County Dept. of Regional Parks have put on the table. “I am not sure what the board will ultimately approve or not approve, but we are set to discuss all of the items and ideas and make a decision very soon.”

For Ose, the clock is ticking. “As of right now, I’ll be out of here on April 30th unless we can agree on something better,” said Ose.

Ose said he’s asked the county to consider a 20-year contract that would likely include increasing the park’s entry fee from $5 to $8, adding as many as 50 full hook-up RV camp sites, and the designation of the park as an official graduation space for local high schools.

“The ground rules have changed, and now we are at a point where I think we all want to see Gibson Ranch continue to remain open, but I need to stop the bleeding,” said Ose, who asserts that, although he saw a $22,000 profit in 2015, monthly losses in 2016 mounted to roughly $20,000 a month, largely due to increases in labor costs.

Visitation to the park however, is substantial.  According to Ose, roughly 100,000 visitors came through the gates of Gibson Ranch in 2016. There are currently 90 special events on the books for 2017, including 43 weddings. Nonetheless, Ose, who is also a former congressman, said the costs of maintaining the facility are outpacing revenues.

“I have to pay 14,000 hours a year to run the place,” Ose said. “Somebody’s got to paint, trim trees, take care of the livestock, answer phones and book events. But with the costs of labor, insurance and electricity going up since we took over, the deal we have with the county is simply no longer working,”

That deal involves payment by Ose of $1 a year for rent and half of his profits to the county.  In turn, the county agreed to pay Ose $500,000 over the current life of the contract for deferred maintenance, a much lower amount, Ose says, than it would have had to pay if the county managed the park on its own, considering the labor-intensive work involved.

“The primary difference between the government’s history of running the park and our tenure is that we can work seven days a week because we are not bound by government labor laws,” Ose said, adding that the county was losing roughly $5 million annually prior to his contract.  “We’ve proven the theory that the county doesn’t have to lose $5 million a year. In fact now they are about $2.5 million ahead.

Regional Parks Director Jeff Leatherman did not return calls for comment.  Ose said he’s not sure what Regional Parks wants for Gibson Ranch, but hopes they will see the value in the details of his renewal proposal.

The RV park idea, for example, claims Ose, could be one of the most viable options for ramping up revenue without significant changes to the park’s natural setting, something Regional Parks has had concerns about in the past.  Ose said he’s had an engineer come out to evaluate the space available for the RV sites and, if approved, he thinks that piece alone could generate as much as $12,000 a month.  Combined with event revenue and a hike in the entry fee, Ose says, things could easily turn around.

At the core of Ose’s proposal, however, is the request to lengthen his contract. A 20-year lease, as opposed to another five-year lease, he claims, would give him the time to implement significant revenue-generating programs and amenities.

“I have asked the county to consider a 20-year contract, something long enough to really put this private corporation to work,” Ose said. “We’ll see what happens, what the other ideas are, and hope for the best.”
 


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Carmichael Student Heading to D.C. Spelling Bee

Story and Photo by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-16

Samhita Kumar, a sixth grader at Winston Churchill Middle School, stands in front of a mosaic of the school’s mascot. She is the 2017 California Central Valley Spelling Bee champion and will head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in May.

Winston Churchill Middle School sixth-grader Samhita Kumar has tried twice to get to Washington, D.C. On March 1 her ability to correctly spell a seven-letter Maori word for a spiny New Zealand lizard put the trip on the map: “tuatara.”

After a mind-numbing 13 rounds against her finalist opponent, Kumar synched the 2015 California Central Valley Spelling Bee title, greenlighting her dream trip to Washington where she will compete in the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

“I’m so excited,” said Kumar.  “I’ve always wanted to go to Washington, D.C., and now I’m getting the chance.”

This was Kumar’s third try for the regional title and it did not come easy. For more than five hours she competed on stage at Sacramento’s Scottish Rite Masonic Center against a formidable group of 60 finalists from across the region. Kumar said it was when the competition got down to just 10 finalists that she started to feel the pressure. 

“I was very nervous and remember I was just hoping and hoping for a word I could spell,” Kumar said.

Kumar and Morgana Kato, a Sacramento fifth-grader from Sierra Oaks Elementary School, knocked their eight opponents out of the competition to face off against each other for the title.  When it was all over, Kumar defeated Kato with a correction of her opponent’s misspelling of a word, then came in hard with two perfect spellings of the words “blastemal,” a cell mass with memory to reproduce, followed by the winning “tuatara,” which she says she didn’t know, but felt confident she could figure out. After that, it was pretty much a blur.

“I’d never seen the word before but I knew it was a Maori word, so once I got its origins I kind of just figured out how to put the letters in place,” said Kumar, explaining that, as hints, judges gave spellers word origins and definitions. “After I spelled it correctly and realized I had won, I just totally blanked. I don’t remember a thing.”

Kumar’s regional bee win marks the school’s first since the 1990s, according to Winston Churchill Principal Michael Dolan. He said staff and teachers couldn’t be more proud and excited for her.

“We have an amazing group of students here and to say that her successful win at the regional competition makes us proud is really an understatement,” said Dolan. “We can’t wait to see how Samhita does in Washington, D.C.”

The road to Washington will be paved with more hard work for Kumar, including regular sessions with her spelling coach who happens to be her father, an engineer at Hewlett Packard. “He’ll be quizzing me a lot and I’m just going to try to learn as many new words as possible,” Kumar said.

The Scripps National competition is a 90-year old tradition launched in 1925 as a literacy push. Some 11 million spellers will compete this year. There were two winners in 2016: Nihar Saireddy Janga, 12, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Jagadeesh Hathwar, 11, of Corning, New York, the youngest winner of the competition on record. They each received $40,000 and other prizes. The two winning words: “Feldenkrais” and “geshellschaft.”


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