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Virginian Wins AARP National Spelling Bee For "Word Nerds" Age 50+

CHEYENNE, WYO  – Today, AARP crowned Michael Petrina Jr., 64, of Arlington, Virginia, the winner of the AARP National Spelling Bee. Petrina won the championship by correctly spelling “woad” and out-spelled 45 other spellers from more than 25 states who competed in the record-breaking Bee that lasted 46 rounds.

Petrina and runner up Scott Firebaugh, 55, of Knoxville, Tennessee, battled each other for 30 rounds to determine the winner.

The Bee was held earlier today at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Gil Couts, 66, from Bigfork, Montana finished third. A full list of finalists can be found online at

“We’re thrilled that so many people from across the country came out for this year’s competition and we want to congratulate Michael for coming out ahead of the pack,” said AARP Wyoming Director Tim Summers. “Our Spelling Bee has continued to grow in popularity since it was created by AARP members 14 years ago, and the cognitive and social benefits of exercising your mind as you age make all of today’s participants winners.”

The AARP National Spelling Bee began with a 100-word written spelling test in the morning, narrowing the field to the top 16 spellers who advanced to the afternoon’s oral spelling rounds. Spellers were allowed to miss three words in the oral rounds before being knocked out of the competition.

The AARP National Spelling Bee was created in 1996 by a group of Cheyenne AARP members who wanted to challenge the 50+ community to keep their minds sharp as they age. It is open to anyone age 50 or older, except previous winners, and is supported by Merriam-Webster Inc., Wells Fargo Bank, Taco John’s Foundation, Franklin Electronic Publishers, the Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wyoming Network, Inc., the Cheyenne Women’s Civic League, and the Laramie County Library System.

Registration for next year’s Bee scheduled for June 19, 2010, is open at or by calling 1-877-926-8300.

“It’s great to see so many people dedicated to keeping their minds sharp and taking on the challenge of participating in the Bee,” Summers said. “We hope to see even more spellers compete in next year’s AARP National Spelling Bee.”

The top 10 finishers in this year’s AARP National Spelling Bee were (tied spellers are listed under the same number):

1. Michael Petrina Jr., 64, Alexandria, VA

2. Scott Firebaugh, 55, Knoxville, TN (round 46)

3. Gil Couts, 66, Bigfork, MT (round 16)

4. Marlene Harry, 57, Brownsburg, IN (round 13)

5. Deborah George, 56, Livermore, CO (round 11)

6. Dr. Norman Zucker, 62, Sebastopol, CA (round 10)

7. Joan Saxton, 67, Sausalito, CA (round 8)

7. Carolyn Dickmann, 65, Richmond Heights, MO (round 8)

8. Kate Karp, 60, Long Beach, CA (round 7)

8. Dr. Kent Stockton, 67, Riverton, WY (round 7)

8. Joseph Dickmann, 65, Richmond Heights, MO (round 7)

8. Mary DeForest, 62, Denver, CO (round 7)

9. James Sherry, 57, Troy, AL (round 6)

10. Ed Dorschel, 60, Enumclaw, WA (round 5)

10. Lucy Morales, 57, Washington, D.C. (round 5)

10. Kathryn Pulver, 51, New York, NY (round 5)


About AARP

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Contact: AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560,

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