In Cayucos, school is out, spelling is in

School’s out — what will the kids do? There are reading programs at the local libraries, summer sessions at area churches and youth recreation programs.

In Cayucos, however, it isn’t surprising that some savvy students are dedicating summer practice time to compete in the second Pat McKaye Annual Cayucos School Spelling Bee.

Their goal is to become one of the top three and represent their class on stage as they spell before their teachers, parents and grandparents for the grade-level trophy and bonus $25 cash award.

The event’s roots go back to the early 1930s, when Cayucan Pat McKaye was a student in Vail, Iowa.

“A favorite memory was participating in my elementary school spelling bee,” McKaye said. “I studied for months — daily and after dinner, returning to school to practice. My dad walked with me when the snow was too high.”

She understands studying hard got her to the Iowa state finals, and she did her best, but after a long day of spelling hundreds of words, everyone was tired and the judges had them write the words.

“I will never again misspell the word potato,” McKaye said. “I got confused when I wrote it down.” She won second place in the state competition.

In honor of her 90th birthday, McKaye’s children and grandchildren presented her with a 10-year endowment to develop an annual spelling bee at Cayucos Elementary School.

Education Foundation President Elaine Thompson worked with Grace Pope and Principal George Erdelyi to inaugurate the program according to California spelling guidelines. The teachers created a classroom competition to qualify the top three students from second through eighth grades.

The finals competition was June 4 — during the televised National Spelling Bee competition. The foundation’s Susan Roper announced each word and used it in a sentence. The students stated, spelled and restated the words spelled from grade-level lists. Those surviving five rounds then spelled words on lists from two grade levels higher until elimination.

Tom Mitchell, Tom Wright and Pat Moon scored the competitors.

Congratulations and awards were presented by McKaye to the following:

• Second grade: first place, Jake Newbill; second, Mia Glinn; third, Dillan Kennedy.

• Third grade: first, Julia Carney; second, Loni Krossa; third, Isabel Moreno.

• Fourth grade: first, Nate Moreno; second, Ally Rose; third, Zoe Ashworth.

• Fifth grade: first, Missy Love; second, Amaya Gomez; third, Elijah Riddell.

• Middle school winners: first place, Sarah Potter, sixth grade; second place, Ariel West, seventh grade; and third place, Garrett Blanchard, eighth grade.

Sarah Potter received the bonus $25 award.

“Everything was perfect,” McKaye said. “The students did a wonderful job.”

“Someday we hope to go to the California state finals,” Erdelyi said.

Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 or jsalamacha@yahoo.com.