Kenny spelling success: Matt's Memo

Alaina Kenny, tied for 13th in National Spelling Bee.

The Kenny family may not need to fill up the gas tank to return home from Washington D.C. to Central New York. They can probably just float on the joy and adrenalin of a week they will never forget. Maria and Pat looked on with the pride of dedicated parents. 10 year old son Brian sported his best New York Yankee good luck shirt. 13 year old sister Alaina took center stage at the National Spelling Bee.

Three years of intensive study, repetition and preparation brought into reach Alaina's long time goal of making it to Washington. Once that goal was achieved by advancing through the Central New York spelling bee she and her father set a new goal: do everything you can to avoid hearing the dreaded ding of the bell. That's the sound that means you misspelled a word.

Alaina never heard it. She was one of 46 to start the week. Then she was one of 31 who correctly answered all of their spelling dilemmas on stage. It was the off stage testing that cost Alaina a few points that separated her from the twelve finalists who made it to prime time on ESPN. Of those twelve nine of them had been through the Washington round before. For Alaina this was her first trip.

Even after her score eliminated her Alaina was glowing with joy. In her post round interview she told us how happy she was to have met her goals. She selflessly wished good luck to her teammates on the Westhill/Ludden track team during state qualifiers and her grandmother a happy birthday.

Alaina's father Pat works with us here at NBC 3. He is a longtime director who makes our newscasts zip along every night from the control room. Pat is quietly one of the brightest and funniest people at the station. As Alaina has grown up he has been unable to hold back on sharing her accomplishments.

The spelling excellence caught some of us by surprise this spring as Pat has spent more time telling us what a terrific runner Alaina has become as an 8th grader running with the high school girls. The running talent became apparent after she had already become an accomplished pianist and flutist. An athlete, a musician and a dedicated student. It's no wonder Pat and Maria are beaming over Alaina's accomplishments.

Not too many 13 year olds know they want to be a neonatologist physician when they grow up. Of course, not many 13 year olds can spell 'funori' and 'diaphoresis' with the whole world watching on ESPN 2.

Pat told me tonight the family will return home over the weekend. The National Spelling Bee treats all the spellers to a tour of Washington tomorrow followed by a Friday night party with a DJ. Surely, the break is well earned by these exceptional students.

After the partying is over, the Kenny family will float back to Central New York. As soon as I congratulate Pat on Alaina's great run, I'm going to ask if Brian has started studying yet.


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