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Clayton takes second in state spelling bee

Published: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 3:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 3:18 p.m. CDT
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Irene Clayton displays the second-place plaque she won at the Illinois Senior Spelling Bee, held Aug. 12 at the Illinois State Fair. This was Clayton's second trip to the state spelling bee, having tied for first place in 2008.

PRINCETON — Irene Clayton of Princeton went to Springfield two weeks ago, just wanting to represent Bureau County well at the Illinois Senior Spelling Bee.

Not only did she represent her county well, Clayton won second place in the state competition held Aug. 12 as part of the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.

Clayton’s road to Springfield began in May when she won the Bureau County Spelling Bee hosted at the Bureau County Senior Center in Princeton. She then won the regional competition in June, also hosted at the Bureau County Senior Center.

At the state spelling bee, Clayton faced off with 18 of the best of the best senior citizen spellers. The spelling bee went 29 rounds before Clayton misspelled the word “hirsute”. Her competitor correctly spelled the word and then spelled one more word, “picayune” to take first place. She should have known how to spell hirsute, Clayton said.

In addition to winning second place, Clayton said this year’s spelling bee was extra special because she was surprised to have several family members and friends in the audience, including her son, daughter, two sisters, a brother-in-law and friends from the Bureau County Senior Center. She thought only her daughter was coming and the rest of the group surprised her, especially her son who came from out of state.

Looking back on the state competition, Clayton said she didn’t think she’d make it to state this year since she had quite a bit of stiff competition along the way. At this point, she’s not planning on competing in next year’s Bureau County Spelling Bee because the county winner has to go to regionals and then possibly on to the state spelling bee. Going to state is too nerve-wracking, she said.

Though going to state may be a bit nerve-wracking, Clayton has done it before.

Five years ago, Clayton won the county and regional spelling bees and then competed in the state spelling bee, in which she was one of two spellers who lasted 49 rounds before the announcer said he had run out of words and called it a tie.

Clayton credited her spelling skills to loving to read, doing crossword puzzles, and watching televised spelling bees. For the past several years, she’s kept spelling lists of words she’s read and heard on the televised spelling bees. If she doesn’t know the meaning or correct spelling of a word, she’ll find it in her dictionary, she said.

Though she may or may not enter another spelling bee, Clayton said she’s going to keep reading and keep spelling and keep doing crossword puzzles. After all, it’s fun, she said.

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