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(Jefferson City) – Earlier this month, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a proclamation designating May as Move Over And Slow Down Awareness Month, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol is urging drivers to be cautious year-round. Brett Stevens has more:

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(Springfield) – The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks says that they are currently at critical levels of O-negative and A-negative blood, and have announced a number of donation dates to help increase supply.

Newly announced blood drives will be held on the following dates and locations:

  • Wednesday, June 10 from 8:30-11:30 AM at Security Bank of the Ozarks, 103 S. Main St. in Eminence
  • Wednesday, June 10 from 11:30 AM to 5:30 PM – Ava High School, 507 NE 3rd St.
  • Wednesday, June 10 from 12-6 PM – Mountain Grove High School, 420 N. Main.
  • Wednesday, June 10 from 2-5 PM – Security Bank of the Ozarks, 105 Highway 19 in Winona
  • Friday, June 12 from 4-6 PM – Houston Sonic location, 1486 S. Sam Houston Blvd.

To be elligible to give blood, donors must have a valid photo ID and weigh at least 110 lbs. For more information, visit www.cbco.org or visit the Community Calendar at www.ozarkareanetwork.com.

(Melbourne) – Ozarka College will host a farewell for Dr. Dennis Rittle, Ozarka College Provost and Executive Vice President of Learning, next month.

The event will be held on June 18 starting at 10 AM in the Student Services Center on the Melbourne, AR campus. Colleagues, family and friends are invited to join the college for cake and punch.

Dr. Rittle and his family will be returning to their home state of Kansas, where he has accepted a position as president at Cowley College.

(West Plains) – The city pool in West Plains is open, and city clerk Mallory Hawkins says there are some changes to pricing this year:

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Pool passes are also available. For more information, call the West Plains Parks and Recreation Department at 417-256-7304.

(Thayer) – The annual Oregon County Relay for Life will take place this coming Saturday, May 30 at the Thayer High School track.

Organizers say the 80s-themed event will start at 2 PM and end at 10 PM, with proceeds raised during the event going to the American Cancer Society. At this time, 12 teams and over 120 participants have raised over $26,000 for the American Cancer Society.

For more information, call Whitney Burrell at 417-447-1478 or visit www.relayforlife.org/Oregoncomo.

(West Plains) – The Ozarks Small Business Incubator in West Plains will be helping entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting or expanding a small business.

Jennifer Brown with the Ozarks Small Business Incubator spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us more about the eight-week course, called Operation JumpStart Online:

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The program begins June 2, and while the deadline to register has passed, the Incubator has a number of other programs available. For more information, visit www.ozsbi.com.

Vanya Shivashankar, 13, left, of Olathe, Kan., left, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of St. Louis, hold up the trophy as co-champions after winning the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Vanya Shivashankar, 13, left, of Olathe, Kan., left, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of St. Louis, hold up the trophy as co-champions after winning the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Oxon Hill) (AP) – For the second straight year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended with co-champions each holding onto one side of the golden trophy while they were showered with confetti.

Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam were the last two standing Thursday after exhausting the 25 words reserved for the final three spellers without stumbling. Before last year, there hadn’t been a tie since 1962.

No one was surprised to see Vanya and Gokul dueling for the title. They came in with high expectations – Vanya, the longtime darling of the bee, a five-time competitor and the sister of the 2009 champion; and Gokul, who last year had the trophy nearly in his grasp.

But the tie shocked Paige Kimble, the bee’s executive director and the 1981 champion, who predicted last week that another half-century would go by before the bee would crown two winners. As impressive as Gokul and Vanya were, she couldn’t believe they’d make it through.

“The most surprising words trip spellers up,” Kimble said. “I thought something was going to surprise us here. But it never happened.”

Vanya, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, was the picture of poise, smiling and nodding when she got a word she knew instantly – which was nearly every time. Her final word: “scherenschnitte,” which means the art of cutting paper into decorative designs.

Then it was Gokul’s turn. The 14-year-old from Chesterfield, Missouri, was told that one of two things would happen. He could get the word right and be a co-champion. Or he could get it wrong and Vanya would win.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he said.

The word: “nunatak.” Gokul didn’t even bother to ask the definition before spelling it. For the record, it means a hill or mountain completely surrounded by glacial ice.

“I knew it right away,” he said. “I didn’t want to keep everyone waiting.”

Roughly 11 million spellers entered local bees, and 285 made it to the national bee, which is held at a convention center outside Washington and televised by ESPN. The ten finalists included several other bee veterans and crowd favorites.

One by one, they dropped. Third-place finisher Cole Shafer-Ray of Norman, Oklahoma, stumbled on his first championship-level word.

That left 18 words for Vanya and Gokul before the final two: bouquetière, caudillismo, thamakau, scytale, tantieme, cypseline, urgrund, filicite, myrmotherine, sprachgefuhl, zimocca, nixtamal, hippocrepiform, paroemiology, scacchite, pipsissewa, Bruxellois and pyrrhuloxia.

Vanya appeared to struggle only with the Fijian-derived “thamaku,” which is a type of outrigger canoe. Gokul smirked and the crowd groaned when he got the German-derived “sprachgefuhl,” which means sensitivity to or conformance with the established usage of a language. But he knew it.

The former champions in the crowd were left to marvel at how far the bee has come, even in the past decade. Vanya is the first sibling of a past champion to win, but Kavya, now a student at Columbia University, said Vanya is a superior speller.

“I’m so, so proud and in awe of my sister,” Kavya said.

“Every year, they get better and better,” said Anamika Veeramani, who won in 2010 and is now a rising sophomore at Yale. “One thing that kind of surprised me was how often they were asking for roots. They never did that when I was competing.”

Like many spellers, Vanya went through a routine: Ask for the definition and the language of origin. Confirm all the roots you can. Pretend to write the word down before spelling.

Gokul didn’t ask many questions. He chugged through the letters like he had dinner plans.

Underneath his blue-and-white button-down shirt, Gokul wore the jersey of his idol, basketball star LeBron James. He hopes to attend Stanford and become an entrepreneur or stockbroker, but his immediate plans are to watch James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals.

Vanya, an aspiring cardiac surgeon who dedicated her victory to her late grandmother, hopes to spend more time pursuing another passion, acting. She’s also trying to talk her family into taking a Caribbean cruise this summer.

“It’s definitely going to be weird not doing spelling in high school,” he said.

The last 10 winners of the bee, and 14 of the past 18, have been Indian-Americans, a run of dominance that began in 1999 with Nupur Lala’s victory, which was later featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”

Vanya and Gokul each will receive more than $37,000 in cash and prizes, and while they held up the trophy together as they were being showered with confetti, each will get one to take home.

The winners don’t have to worry about spelling anymore. But Kimble is left to ponder a future when the toughest words still aren’t tough enough.

“I think it’s time to consider that the bee may be entering a new era where the level of competition is so intense that we need to entertain this as a possibility every year,” she said. “I think the popularity of the event drives up the competitive level and I think that’s a good thing.”

AP freelancer Meredith Somers contributed to this report.

(L-A-D Foundation)

(L-A-D Foundation)

(West Plains) – A philanthropist and conservationist who spent a majority of his life bringing life to the Ozark Highlands has passed away.

Leo Drey passed away on Tuesday, May 26 at the age of 98. Drey, the son of a glass manufacturing magnate, began buying land in the Ozark Highlands in the 1950s to protect and preserve the land, including a purchase of 90,000 acres of land in Shannon County. In 1962, he organized the L-A-D Foundation, and in 1964 began donating land to the foundation, much of which became Missouri Natural Areas and state parks, including Grand Gulf State Park in Oregon County. Today, L-A-D Foundation properties include “Pioneer Forest”, which encompases roughly 160,000 acres of land in Missouri, including 12 Missouri Natural Areas and nearly a thousand acres along the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and within the Current River watershed.

In 2004, Leo Drey and his wife, Kay, donated most of Pioneer Forest to L-A-D, marking the largest philanthropic donation in America that year and the largest private gift of its kind in Missouri history.

(Omaha) – Larry Johnson, a 32-year veteran of the National Park Service, has been selected as the new superintendent of Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Previously, Johnson was the superintendent of Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota, and since January, 2015, has been on a detail assignment to the Riverways as Acting Superintendent. He begins his new assignment in mid-June.

Johnson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor Recreation Resource Management from Iowa State University, and completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Executive Education Program, the NPS New Superintendent Academy, and the National Parks Institute. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, he began his NPS career at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site as a Supervisory Park Ranger. He has also worked as a District Ranger at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Yellowstone National Park, and Voyageurs National Park where he earned the Midwest Region’s Harry Yount Award for excellence in rangering.

(Van Buren) – A resident of Ellsinore was killed Wednesday after a one-vehicle accident near Van Buren.

The accident happened just after 6:30 PM on County Road 127, about four miles west of Van Buren, when the westbound sedan driven by 27-year-old Aaron Freeman ran off-road and overturned, partially ejecting a passenger, 51-year-old James Crouch. Crouch was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second passenger suffered minor injuries and sought his own medical treatment.

The death marks fatality number 8 for Troop G of the Highway Patrol for this year, compared to 7 at this time last year.