The last time Robin Freed competed in a spelling bee, she was in the fifth grade and never received a trophy for her efforts.
But, on Wednesday, Freed was the last contestant standing at the inaugural Volunteers of America Valley Manor Care Center Community Spelling Bee. She got the win after correctly reciting back to the judges hominy — coarsely ground corn which is used to make grits.
The victor came away with her first-ever trophy as well as a few prizes.
“It was fun to see if I could do it or not,” said Freed, who volunteers by playing music at the VOA Homestead once a month.
Freed just beat out VOA life enrichment assistant Kathy Meehan, who misspelled peasantry — a mostly historical term meaning agricultural laborers of low social status. Freed was able to spell the word correctly before then getting hominy in the final round.
Meehan finished as the runner-up while VOA resident Tammy Epperson placed third.
The battle for the top spot was a fight between Freed and Meehan. The two kept spelling word after word, which kept getting incrementally harder.
Freed had a chance to win the competition earlier as Meehan just couldn’t get the word, cooperage, right. But the eventual winner also couldn’t rack her brain for cooperage, which means a cooper's business or premises.
“Toward the end there when it was the three of us, I was starting to get the butterflies,” said Freed. “I was getting nervous because I think the competitive spirit kicked in and I thought, “I want to win!’”
Freed isn’t necessarily a stranger to memorizing words. She’s a frequent Scrabble player and uses her smartphone to play Words with Friends with her sister-in-law.
“It just keeps the brain sharp,” she said.
Around 15 contenders, ranging from Volunteers of America residents, staff to community members, partook in the spelling bee.
Those who participated appreciated the thrill of competition.
“It was a lot of fun,” Epperson said. “I really enjoyed it.”
Freed was able to conquer the bee despite having dyslexia. She said she overcame this by first trying to picture the word in her head and then spelling what she saw in her mind.
What will she do now with her first-ever trophy?
Freed said she plans to put it out on display in her music studio which she runs out of her house.
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.