CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the winner and the first runner-up of the 56th annual Kanawha County Spelling Bee, it was a repeat performance.
Kathryn Wantlin, 12, of Charleston Catholic, took the top title in this year's bee. She sealed the deal by spelling "ghastly" as her winning word.
It was the second year for her to be named county champion.
It is also the second year she has matched wits with Lauren Coccari, 12, of Sissonville Middle School.
Lauren became first runner-up when she missed "slanderous," but she had survived 46 rounds against Kathryn and 61 other Kanawha County students in the Jan. 21 event at South Charleston High School.
The third-place winner was Alexandra Goad, 13, of Cross Lanes Christian Academy. The top-placing elementary student was Varun Kukkillaya, 10, of Holtz Elementary.
This is the third year Lauren has been county runner-up. She will reach the age limit for competition next year, and she will try one more time for the county champion title.
"I want to try to actually win next year and make the best of it because it will be the last time I'll be up on that stage spelling, so I'm enjoying the last few years of glory while I can," she said.
Both Kathryn and Lauren will compete in the March 17 Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee, joining champions and runners-up from 21 other counties in the southern half of the state.
The regional bee will be held at Capital High School. It is co-sponsored by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and Lumos. The regional contest will be televised on MyZ, WSAZ's sister station, at 1 p.m. March 31.
The Kanawha County girls have spelled against each other more than once and have similar interests -- both are avid pianists. They feel no animosity towards one another.
"It's just like going up against any other person," Kathryn said.
As she prepares for the regional bee, she also must find time for piano lessons, regular schoolwork and math field day practice. Luckily, she has her mom to help her study the list of words she gets before the competition.
She says she can't help but think about the way words are spelled.
"Sometimes when I'm doing something else, it just creeps up into my mind," she said.
Lauren also has a study list and has her mom help when she can.
At the county bee, pronouncer Kennie Bass had moved beyond the word list that had been provided to spellers when he gave Lauren "slanderous."
"They started going off the list, and then I was pretty much screwed because there are a million different suffixes that could go on the end of that," she said.