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Retired Attorney Becomes AARP Spelling Bee’s First Repeat Champion

Rhizoctonia is a genus of asexual, anamorphic fungi known for causing crop diseases. It’s also the word that netted 67-year-old Michael Petrina Jr. his second win at the AARP National Spelling Bee. Petrina, a retired attorney living in Arlington, Va., beat out 48 others (including four of his cousins) at Saturday’s bee. Petrina also won in 2009, and placed second in 2011 and 2008.

“I’ve entered the AARP bee because of the mental discipline and challenge in preparing for it, and because of the great people I have met each year I have participated,” said Petrina, who missed only one word during the four hours and 47 rounds of oral spelling.

The word that got Petrina the win this year was rhizoctonia (rhy-zahk-TOH’-nee-uh). His prize includes $1,000 and a five-year AARP membership.

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The AARP National Spelling Bee is open to anyone 50 and older; this year’s bee attracted more than 50 competitors from 24 states. It was created in 1996 by a group of AARP members in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and has been held there every year since. For more info, see the AARP Spelling Bee page or connect with the bee on Facebook.

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Photo: Matt Nager