“Lucky” Penny defends her spelling champion title for the third time Rockland Herstrategyremainsthesametoprepare for the nationals.

iscertainsheknowsit,tostillrunitthrough hermemoryfiles,checkandre-check,before in a slow, careful and clear voice, she enunciates each individual letter. Other competitors also have their routi- nes, whether for luck or just habit, Penny doesn’t know. She just knows why she does what she does. “I could use a little luck, to go with the hard work.” And it seems to work for her. Now she can relax, a bit, with her favourite books, a bit of roller-skating with her old-style traditional four-wheel skates, not the mo- dern blader types. Plus there are air cadets meetings to attend and with that, biathlon training for winter exercise, though she will admit that her marksmanship isn’t top-notch though she enjoys getting out on the biathlon ski trails and plunking away at the targets with her rifle. At home she’s also online, updating her websitewith reviews of concerts she’s been to, travel reports on some of the places she’s been and sights seen during competitions.Maybeshe’llstartdoingbook reviews. At the moment, she’s divided on her future career choices. “I can’t choose between an editor or a doctor.” She smiles at a suggestion that maybe editing a medical journal could satisfy both goals. CBC TV will have its camera on Penny and other competitors at the national spelling championships in Toronto later this month. The finals will air on April 1 and the top three spellers head for Washington, D.C., and the Scripps championship later in spring.

“Study, as usual, and hope for the best.” Hope means following a few personal rituals to court Dame Fortune’s favour. Like spending the night before any major competition with a hardcover copy of the 2002 edition of the 150,000-word Webster’s Third New International Dictionary resting underneath her pillow. Or pillows. “Because it has all the words,” she said, about why that particular dictionary becomes her “sleeping charm” before a competition. “When I travel to Washington, I bring the CD edition,” she said, smiling, “and that’s a lot easier to sleep on.” This particular ritual has been a part of her competitive life for years. “I’m pretty sure it started with my first spelling bee. I’m not sure who thought of it.” She has other habits as part of her pre- competition vision questing. “When I started doing the Canspell, I started finding pennies.” At this year’s regionals she had four pennies,andabent-overdime,tuckedaway in one of her shoes. The dime she found outside while roller-skating, something she enjoys doing when not cracking the books. During competition, she has another ritual. When she is given her word to spell, Penny goes through all the clue cues the judges are allowed to give each contestant. That includes the definition of the word, its origin, use in a sentence, any alternate pronunciations, and one final repetition of the word itself. It’s a ritual, but it’s not for luck. It gives her time to assess the word and, even if she

Veronica Penny has her own little rituals that she follows to bring her just the tiniest iota of luck when she faces any major competition in her spelling competitions. But luck is not the reason why she is the Postmedia Canspell regional spelling champion for the fourth time in a row by proving she has the biggest and the best vocabulary of anyone in the National Gal- lery of Canada on March 4. “Of course, I was very excited,” the 14- year-old living lexicon said, smiling, during an interview Monday afternoon at home. “I love going to Canspell, and winning anything is really exhilarating.” Penny has been taking on every word challenge in spelling since she was nine and Sunday afternoon’s competition saw her and 49 other young walking dictionaries from around the region lead their audience on a world tour of words, both ordinary and exotic, featuring bon mots like googol, a mathematician’s word for the value of one followed by 100 zeroes, and temerity, the word that won Penny her fourth straight title of Canspell regional champion. Her efforts earned her a place in the national Canspell championships later this month in Toronto, plus a $5000 cheque from the Egg Farmers of Canada. If she wins in Toronto, she has one more shot at They were one short of a dozen for this dynamic group of talented students representing Prescott-Russell and other areas of the Upper Canada school district Garden project planted Vars A new beautification project will blossom soon in Vars. TheVarsCommunityAssociation(VSA) has received approval from the City of Ottawa for funding aid on a community garden project. Site for the project is the vacant municipal lot on Centre Street in the village core. The VSA and the city are working out finaldetailsonfundingandland-useagree- ments. Meanwhile project design and management planning has begun. Anyone interested in helpingwith plan- ning or becoming one of the growers using the site for gardening purposes can send an email to to add their names to the list of project contacts. Cornwall

international glory at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. later this year. “I’m hoping my chances are pretty good,” Penny said. Photo Gregg Chamberlain Veronica Penny's choice of bedtime "reading" has stood her in good stead over the years that she has proven a champion speller and wordsmith. at the annual Eastern Ontario high school skills competition. The 2012 edition of the Eastern Ontario Secondary School Skills Competition (EOSSSC) set up at St. Lawrence College in Cornwall on Feb. 29. The event finished with a gold medal for Lauren Reid from Almonte in Prepared Speech while Russell High School’s Megan Andrews took the bronze. Hillary Johnson from Russell High School won gold in Job Interview category. Mariah Sturgess of Carleton Place earned her silver in Photography, and the Almonte team of Michelle Toshack and Leiya Henke produced a silver-medal performance in TV/Video Production. Russell High School’s duo of Seri Eksharkawi and Dylan Cadieux captured the bronze with their TV/Video entry. Rockland’s Vincent Paquette put together a bronze-medal finish in Cabinet- Making while the Almonte team of Thomas Hicks and Ben Boyes hammered together a third-place finish in Team-of-Two Carpentry. Kenyan Payne of Carleton Place assembledabronze-medaltriumphinSmall Engine Repair.

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