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He spelled ‘hunky-dory’ right, then won the bee with these 2 words
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Maddux Rifenburg listens to the word he has to spell Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, during the Gainesville City Schools district spelling bee at the Gainesville City School Board office on Oak Street. - photo by Scott Rogers

A chuckle slipped out of Maddux Rifenburg as he effortlessly spelled the word “hunky-dory” before a panel of judges.

The fourth grader at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy flew through the last round at the Gainesville City Schools District Spelling Bee on Wednesday, Jan. 15, winning the competition with the two words, “beatboxing” and “furrow.”

“I’m a little stressed, and I’m happy that I got to see my friends here,” Maddux said. “I had actually studied the last word (furrow) and read it in multiple books. I’ve always loved reading.”

Last 10 words
  • Plumbing

  • Ancient

  • Tapestry

  • Attagirl

  • Hunky-dory

  • Squawk

  • Parcel

  • Commotion

  • Beatboxing

  • Furrow

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Gainesville City Schools district spelling bee winner Maddux Rifenburg, right, is hugged by Eleanor Mbigi Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, following his win at the Gainesville City School Board office on Oak Street. - photo by Scott Rogers

His parents, Amy and Michael Rifenburg, squeezed each other’s hands in delight each time their son correctly spelled a word. Maddux said his parents supported his spelling bee efforts, practicing with him every night. 

“The school gave us a list of words, and we’d read them to him while cleaning the kitchen or after we put our two younger kids to bed,” Michael Rifenburg said. “We’d stay up and read the words at night.”

Eleanor Mbigi, fourth grader at New Holland Knowledge Academy, came in second place after faltering on the word “commotion.” Abigail McCall, fifth grader at Gainesville Exploration Academy, followed in third place. 

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Eleanor Mbigi correctly spells her word during the Gainesville City Schools district spelling bee Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, at the Gainesville City School Board office on Oak Street. - photo by Scott Rogers

Maddux will now go on to compete in the regional spelling bee on Saturday, Feb. 22, in Marietta. 

Michelle Cantrell, who organized the district spelling bee, said the competition included winners, ranging from fourth to eighth grade, from Gainesville’s school spelling bees. 

The Georgia Association of Educators provided the list of words for the spelling bee, which Cantrell said she kept “top secret.”

In addition to spelling, Wednesday’s participants were asked to flex their vocabulary skills by correctly identifying the definitions of words. 

Cantrell said she couldn’t help but swell with pride, as she watched the students who boldly represented their district. 

“Not only did they do well today and have the courage to stand up and spell in front of a room full of people, but it also shows a commitment to literacy,” Cantrell said. “None of this happened by accident. Their parents read to them. Their teachers teach them. It truly takes a village working together to build literacy.”

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Jaylon Hendrix looks back at the audience Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, during the Gainesville City Schools district spelling bee at the Gainesville City School Board office on Oak Street. - photo by Scott Rogers
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